Judge rules on mental competency for man accused of killing Stanislaus Deputy Wallace

Watch Deputy Wallace’s accused killer at court; family react to ruling

Family and friends of Deputy Dennis Wallace embrace outside of court, shortly after a judge ruled his accused killer is competent to face charges.
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Family and friends of Deputy Dennis Wallace embrace outside of court, shortly after a judge ruled his accused killer is competent to face charges.

A judge on Tuesday reinstated the criminal case against David Machado, who is accused of murder in the shooting of Stanislaus County Sheriff’s Deputy Dennis Wallace.

The defense argued that Machado had said he was unwilling to communicate with his attorneys, so further medical evaluation was needed until the court could be certain the defendant was mentally fit to proceed with his case.

Stanislaus Superior Court Judge Thomas Zeff said Tuesday afternoon that the defense failed to meet its burden of proof. With his ruling, the judge declared Machado was mentally competent and reinstated the case, which had been suspended for two years.

The deputy was fatally shot shortly before 8:30 a.m. Nov. 13, 2016, after he spotted a stolen van at the Fox Grove Fishing Access near Hughson.

Machado, 40, remains in custody at the Stanislaus County Jail. The judge scheduled him to return to court Feb. 13 for a pretrial hearing. He has pleaded not guilty to charges of murder, first-degree robbery, carjacking and being a felon in possession of a gun. He entered his plea two days after Wallace was gunned down.

The court now has to schedule a preliminary hearing to determine whether there’s enough evidence for Machado to stand trial on the charges filed against him.

wallace mug.jpg
Deputy Dennis Wallace

On Tuesday afternoon, Deputy Public Defender Marlon Simon argued that another doctor who interviewed Machado has testified that the defendant was unwilling to discuss facts and aspects of his criminal case with his attorneys based on a delusional belief that some mechanism outside the judicial system was out to get him.

The defense attorney said that delusional belief has not been addressed by the psychiatric team ordered by the court to treat Machado and help him restore his mental competency. He also said that Machado has a long-established delusional disorder, and his client was described as “extremely guarded.”

“We need more information; we need more review,” Simon told the judge.

Zeff said both sides agree that Machado understands the criminal charges he faces and the court proceedings that lay ahead for him. The only issue for the judge to decide was whether Machado can assist his attorneys in his own legal defense.

A Stanislaus County Sheriff's Department deputy was killed in the line of duty at Hughson's Fox Grove Park early Sunday, Nov. 13, 2016.

Deputy District Attorney John R. Mayne argued that Machado is functioning well and his mental illness has been treated by medication. His condition has improved, and he is now more willing to cooperate with his attorneys.

Gabrielle Paladino, a forensic psychiatrist, treated Machado in late 2017 at Atascadero State Hospital in San Luis Obispo County. She testified last month that Machado was very motivated and wanted to get back to court and give his best to his case.

Machado’s murder charge comes with a special-circumstance allegation that makes the case eligible for the death penalty, but prosecutors have not informed the court whether they will seek it.

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Rosalio Ahumada writes news stories about criminal court cases in Stanislaus County for The Modesto Bee, issues related to immigration and immigrant communities and breaking news related to crime and public safety. From time to time, he covers the Modesto City Council meetings. He has worked as a news reporter in the Northern San Joaquin Valley since 2004.