The California Supreme Court Monday reversed the convictions of an accused killer from Los Angeles because the jury trial wasn't stopped -- even after the defendant showed signs he had returned to a state of mental incompetence.
The opinion means Domingo Linares Rodas could receive a new trial, so long as he is deemed competent to stand trial. The high court's decision noted Rodas' long history with mental illness.
"We conclude the trial court erred in failing to suspend the criminal trial and initiate competency proceedings at the time counsel declared a doubt as to her client's competence," Justice Leondra R. Kruger wrote.
Rodas, now 62, was convicted in 2014 of one count of murder and two counts of attempted murder for the stabbings of homeless men in Hollywood. He was sentenced to life without the possibility of parole.
The convictions included the murder of Keith Fallin, who was killed on Aug. 6, 2009 while he was asleep near the Music Box Theater on Hollywood Boulevard, according to the LA County District Attorney's Office. The attempted murder convictions were for the stabbings of two other men the same day.
Jurors acquitted Rodas of murdering two other homeless men in the weeks prior to the Aug. 6 attacks.
Rodas was initially found incompetent to stand trial because of mental illness, but after several months of treatment with antipsychotic medication at a state hospital, doctors reported Rodas was ready for trial, according to the court opinion.
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Rodas stopped taking medication as the trial began and was, "communicating incoherently with counsel." A defense lawyer raised the concern with LA Superior Court Judge Robert Perry, but after the judge quizzed Rodas about the charges in the case Rodas told the court he was willing to go to trial and would work with his lawyer.
The District Attorney's Office did not immediately respond to a request for comment on the ruling.