SAN FRANCISCO (AP) — A federal judge on Friday delayed a gun possession trial against a Mexican man who was acquitted of killing a woman on a San Francisco pier in a case that became a national flashpoint, saying he has questions about the man’s mental competency.
U.S. District Judge Vince Chhabria postponed a trial expected to start next week until a psychiatrist evaluates Jose Inez Garcia-Zarate. He said he made the decision after having a conversation with Garcia-Zarate, who is charged with two counts of illegal gun possession.
“It appears that Garcia-Zarate may not understand the charges against him, and it’s possible that he’s not currently taking any medication for his apparent mental illness,” Chhabria wrote in his ruling.
The judge said he reviewed the police interrogation, video of a jailhouse interview Garcia-Zarate gave to a reporter after his arrest and an audio recording of his recent arraignment in which he gave “sometimes nonsensical” responses to questions. Chhabria also disclosed that in a criminal case in Texas in 2009, a court-appointed psychologist diagnosed Garcia-Zarate with schizophrenia and that while in the prison system, he received evaluations and treatments for “serious mental illness.”