HANFORD, Calif. (KGET) — It will be at least two more months before it’s determined whether Jamie Osuna will continue to fight reports saying he’s competent to stand trial in the death of his cellmate, found decapitated in the cell the two shared at Corcoran State Prison.
At the request of Osuna’s attorney, Melina Bennighoff, March 21 was chosen as the date on which she will either drop a motion opposing the competency findings or a competency trial will be scheduled. Benninghoff said she needs to meet in-person with Osuna, something that has been impossible the past couple months due to COVID-19 restrictions at Sacramento State Prison, where her client is currently held.
Benninghoff, in an appearance by video Monday before Kings County Superior Court Judge Michael J. Reinhart, asked Osuna if he agreed with the postponement.
“Yes, yes, whatever you say, doc, yeah,” said Osuna, appearing by video from a room inside prison with a cage in the corner. Osuna, dressed all in white, sat in a chair outside the cage, leaning back with eyes closed for a portion of the hearing, at times smiling or rolling his eyes.
In determining competency, a judge reviews evidence, including psychiatrists’ reports, and decides whether a defendant understands the charges against them and can assist counsel in the preparation of a defense.
Last year, criminal proceedings were suspended in the Romero case when a judge ruled Osuna incompetent to stand trial after hearing testimony from two psychiatrists. Osuna was transferred to a psychiatric inpatient program for treatment, where psychiatrists months later said he had been restored to competency.
Osuna, 33, was charged with murder and other crimes in the death of cellmate Luis Romero, 44, at Corcoran State Prison. Romero was beheaded and other body parts were removed.
At the time of Romero’s death, Osuna was serving life without parole for the torture and killing of Yvette Pena in Bakersfield. He pleaded guilty in 2017 to first-degree murder and other charges filed in Pena’s killing.
Romero’s mother is suing guards at Corcoran State Prison, alleging her son made a personnel complaint against Sgt. Joseph Burns, who retaliated by placing him in the same cell with Osuna. The suit alleges Romero and other guards “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.”
Romero was serving life without parole for a 1992 murder in Los Angeles County.