Jury says man competent to be tried in 1999 beating, child rape in Modesto

rahumada@modbee.comMay 1, 2013 

Aguirre Pedro

Pedro Vicente Aguirre


    Rosalio Ahumada
    Title: Courts reporter
    Coverage areas: Criminal cases, breaking news
    Bio: Rosalio Ahumada has been a reporter at The Bee for more than seven years, previously covering crime and public safety issues. He also has worked at the Merced Sun-Star, covering education.
    Recent stories written by Rosalio
    On Twitter: @ModBeeCourts
    E-mail: rahumada@modbee.com

— A jury on Wednesday determined that a man accused of beating two people and raping their 3-year-old daughter 14 years ago in south Modesto is mentally competent to stand trial.

Pedro Vicente Aguirre, 35, must face two counts of attempted murder, forcible aggravated sexual assault of a minor, kidnapping to commit rape, committing a forcible lewd act on a child younger than 14, burglary and child endangerment.

The child endangerment charge stems from the fact that the couple's 7-year-old boy was in the home when the attack on his parents occurred.

The jurors reached a verdict within 20 minutes of starting their deliberation Wednesday afternoon. Their decision was based solely upon whether the defendant was capable of standing trial.

Aguirre's attorney argued that his client suffers from mental illness and is not able to assist in his defense. The prosecutor argued that Aguirre does not have a mental disorder, which is required by law to deem a defendant mentally unfit to stand trial.

Peter Stavrianoudakis, Aguirre's defense attorney, argued that his client exhibits a "ricocheting bullet of thought stream" that prevents him from communicating with him. He told the jury that he now has an "insurmountable task" of defending his client, who can't communicate the key components of the case that will help in his defense.

"He's not fine," Stavrianoudakis said in his closing argument. "He's not competent."

Deputy District Attorney Annette Rees argued that Aguirre has difficulty expressing himself because he speaks only Spanish, has a third-grade education and is under stress.

"You have zero evidence that Mr. Aguirre suffers from a severe mental disorder," Rees said in her closing argument.

Authorities have said Aguirre left Modesto and went to Guadalajara, Mexico, after the attacks. He was not seen again until he was extradited and returned to Stanislaus County in October, 12 years later.

Forensic psychologist Phil Trompetter examined Aguirre in December. He testified Wednesday that Aguirre told him he was having auditory hallucinations, such as a female voice saying, "Fine. How are you?" Trompetter said Aguirre reported hearing silence.

A psychiatrist prescribed anti-psychotic medication for Aguirre in 2011 at the jail, but that treatment was discontinued in April 2012. Trompetter said the medication is given to patients with hallucinations, delusions and disorganized speech.

Stavrianoudakis argued that psychiatrists don't prescribe anti-psychotic medication for people who have no mental health problems. He argued that Trompetter examined Aguirre only for about an hour and didn't speak to the psychiatrist who prescribed the medication or review the defendant's medical records.

Trompetter, however, found that Aguirre has no delusions, made no incoherent statements, kept his hygiene and jail cell clean, was not depressed or manic, and did not exhibit unusual physical mannerisms.

"No substantial evidence that he has a mental illness that will render him incapable," Trompetter testified.

The psychologist said that Aguirre's hallucinations were self-reported, meaning nobody else at the jail saw him when he was having them. He testified that people with auditory hallucinations typically are observed being distracted.

Trompetter testified that Aguirre has little understanding of the judicial process, but he understands the seriousness of the charges against him.

The jury in the mental competency trial did not hear testimony about the crimes and was not tasked with deciding whether Aguirre is innocent or guilty. There has been a claim by the defendant or his attorney that Aguirre was suffering from mental illness when the crimes occurred.

In a preliminary hearing last year, the prosecutor said Aguirre forced his way into the family's home in the 1600 block of Imperial Avenue about 8 a.m. on Oct. 24, 1999.

Rees argued that Aguirre beat the 34-year-old father and the 26-year-old mother with a tire iron before grabbing their daughter and running away. The girl was sexually assaulted in a nearby orchard, authorities have testified, and two witnesses stopped the assault and chased away the assailant.

The parents later were released from the hospital after being treated for major blunt-force head trauma. The 3-year-old required surgery.

Stavrianoudakis argued in the preliminary hearing that the prosecution presented "conflicting" testimony linking his client to the attack, the kidnapping and the sexual assault.

After the verdict was announced Wednesday, Stavrianoudakis told the judge he wanted to delay scheduling the trial because he was going to receive additional evidence from the prosecutor. It appeared the judge was ready to grant the defense attorney's request, but Aguirre refused to waive his right to a trial within 60 days.

Stanislaus County Superior Court Judge Thomas Zeff scheduled Aguirre's trial to start June 17.

Bee staff writer Rosalio Ahumada can be reached at rahumada@modbee.com or (209) 578-2394.

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