HANFORD, Calif. (KGET) — A privately-retained attorney who on Wednesday officially substituted in to represent Jamie Osuna in the 2019 slaying of Osuna’s cellmate cautioned against making premature conclusions about the case, saying “there’s a lot more coming.”
Speaking after a brief hearing in Kings County Superior Court, Fresno-based attorney Miles A. Harris said the killing of Luis Romero is a tragedy, and he and his staff have a lot of work to do as they review evidence and seek answers.
“Any loss of life is a massive tragedy,” Harris said. “Now the question is, ‘How the hell did this happen?'”
Osuna, 34, is accused of killing Romero, 44, the night of March 8, 2019, at Corcoran State Prison. Romero was decapitated and other body parts were removed. Guards discovered the gory scene after ordering Osuna to remove a sheet placed over the window of the cell.
Harris said multiple people contacted him about representing Osuna. He declined to say who’s footing the bill.
Osuna was first represented by court-appointed attorney Melina Benninghoff. Osuna fired her and the court appointed Hugo Gomez-Vidal, who was replaced by Harris.
At Wednesday’s hearing, Harris voiced concerns about Osuna’s housing, noting his client had been returned to Corcoran State Prison, which is not only the site of Romero’s death but the subject of a federal lawsuit filed in connection with the killing. Harris told Judge James LaPorte he’d like to get his client sent to a more suitable location.
At the time of Romero’s death, Osuna was serving life without parole for the torture-slaying of Yvette Pena in Bakersfield. A lawsuit filed by Romero’s mother alleges Romero made a personnel complaint against a prison sergeant who retaliated by placing him in the same cell with “violent psychopath” Osuna.
Earlier this year, in a decision allowing the suit to proceed, a federal judge found it plausible to infer Sgt. Joseph Burns and other unidentified guards at Corcoran State Prison “responsible for the day-to-day implementation of cellmate selection decisions were aware that Osuna should not be celled with another inmate and, relatedly, that this was because he posed a serious danger to others.”
The next hearing in the criminal case is set for February, at which time it’s expected a preliminary hearing will be scheduled.