HANFORD, Calif. (KGET) — An attorney for convicted murderer Jamie Osuna will argue later this year he remains incompetent and criminal charges in the 2019 torture slaying of his cellmate must stay suspended.
Melina Benninghoff plans to call multiple witnesses to rebut reports filed by psychiatrists indicating Osuna has been restored to competency — meaning he understands the charges against him and can aid lawyers in the preparation of a defense.
Superior Court Judge Randy Edwards on Wednesday set an evidentiary hearing for Dec. 16. He noted the burden is on the defense to prove Osuna’s mental incompetence.
Osuna, 33, appeared by video conference from California State Prison – Sacramento. He will be transferred to Kings County Superior Court for the December hearing.
Osuna was charged in 2019 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.
Criminal proceedings were suspended earlier this year after Edwards heard testimony from two psychiatrists who diagnosed Osuna with multiple mental health disorders and said there was no indication he was feigning his symptoms. Edwards ruled Osuna was incompetent and he was transferred to a psychiatric inpatient program for treatment.
In July, the court was notified that psychiatrists who monitored his behavior in the program had filed reports stating Osuna had regained competency.
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.