Reports state Jaime Osuna incompetent to stand trial in cellmate’s death; judge orders hearing where psychiatrists will testify

Crime Watch

HANFORD, Calif. (KGET) — Two psychiatrists have filed reports stating they believe convicted murderer Jaime Osuna is not competent to stand trial in connection with the grisly slaying of his cellmate at Corcoran State Prison.

But one of the psychiatrists equivocated in his decision because Osuna refused to be interviewed, and the findings were based on earlier records, according to testimony Thursday in a Kings County courtroom. Over Osuna’s objections, Judge Frank Dougherty set a hearing in December where the psychiatrists will testify about their findings.

Additionally, Osuna is due back in court later this month after filing a motion seeking to obtain photos of the crime scene. The California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation has refused his request.

Osuna is charged with murder and other crimes in the March 2019 slaying of his cellmate, Luis Romero, 44, whom he allegedly decapitated and inflicted numerous other injuries. A decision on whether to seek the death penalty has not yet been made by the Kings County District Attorney’s office.

Dressed in a red jumpsuit and wearing a white face covering, Osuna told the court Thursday he wanted an immediate determination on his competency and objected to any further hearings on the matter.

In determining competency, a judge weighs evidence, including the testimony of doctors, and determines whether a defendant understands the criminal proceedings against them and can assist in the preparation of a defense. If found incompetent, a defendant is sent to a state hospital for treatment.

Osuna’s attorney, Melina Benninghoff, told Dougherty the reports expressed concerns about Osuna’s apparent paranoia, and said he refuses to communicate with the defense team. She said it’s her belief Osuna’s lack of cooperation is due to unaddressed psychiatric issues.

“I believe my client is incompetent,” Benninghoff said. “He’s in a position where he can not help me help him.”

Prosecutor Louis Torch, noting the equivocation in one of the doctor’s reports regarding some of the criteria used in finding Osuna incompetent, asked for a hearing where the psychiatrists could clarify their findings before the court.

Dougherty decided to schedule a hearing after speaking with Osuna, who told the judge he’s not crazy. The psychiatrists are scheduled to testify on Dec. 10 and, if necessary, Dec. 11.

At the time of his cellmate’s death, Osuna was serving a sentence of life without parole for the torture and murder of Yvette Pena in Bakersfield in 2011.

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