Monday, December 19, 2016
S.C. to Review Competency Issue in Stabbings Case
By a MetNews Staff Writer
The California Supreme Court has agreed to decide whether a Los Angeles Superior Court judge should have held a midtrial competency hearing in the case of a man convicted of stabbing five men, three of them fatally, on Hollywood streets in July and August 2009.
The justices, at their weekly conference in San Francisco Wednesday, unanimously granted review in People v. Rodas, B255598.
Domingo Rodas, who has a long criminal record and a history of mental illness, was chased down and arrested by police who said they recognized him from a surveillance tape recorded by security cameras outside the Music Box Theater, near where they spotted him while gathering evidence from one of the stabbings.
Rodas was eventually charged with the July 19, 2009 murder of Frederick Lombardo, which occurred on Santa Monica Blvd. near El Centro, and with the Aug. 6 murders of Roger Cota and Keith Fallin and the attempted murders of Ronald Vaughn and Kenneth McFetridge, all of which occurred within a mile to half-mile of each other.
He was initially found incompetent to stand trial, but a certification of restoration of mental competency was filed in 2013 and proceedings were restored. He was convicted of killing Fallin and the attempted murders of Vaughn and McFetridge.
He was sentenced to life imprisonment without possibility of parole, plus two consecutive life terms, by Los Angeles Superior Court Judge Robert Perry.
On appeal, the defense argued that there was substantial evidence he was incompetent to stand trial. It cited a statement by defense counsel, right after a jury was sworn, expressing a doubt as to competency.
The deputy public defender representing Rodas explained in chambers that he had handed her a note complaining that the video evidence consisted of “assimilations and…not the correct video,” and that she didn’t understand what he meant. He also claimed that officers had visited him in jail, and that he had complained about “transcriptures of acquittal of execution.”
When she asked him what he meant, the attorney said, he responded by “using a lot of polysyllabic words that go around in a circle and don’t really make sense.”
“I don’t know what he’s saying, I don’t know what he wants, and he wants—apparently wants to testify and I’m afraid to put him on the stand because I don’t know what’s going to come out of his mouth.”
After a colloquy with Rodas, who said it “would be properly fine” to proceed to trial, Perry concluded that he possessed “clarity of reasoning,” understood the charges, and was willing to assist counsel. Rodas acknowledged that he had stopped taking his medication, but told the judge he had “been doing fine” without it.
Justice Richard Aldrich, writing for the Court of Appeal’s Div. Three, said the defendant “demonstrated an understanding of the nature of the criminal proceedings and a willingness to assist counsel with his defense in a rational manner when questioned by the court.”
The Supreme Court said in its order Wednesday it would limit its review to a single question, “Did the trial court violate defendant’s right to due process by failing to suspend proceedings after his attorney declared a doubt as to his competence?,” leaving intact the Court of Appeal’s rejection of the defendant’s challenge to the admission of expert testimony, on cross-examination, that the defense said amounted to prohibited opinion on the issue of specific intent.
Copyright 2016, Metropolitan News Company