LOS ANGELES (CBSLA.com) — A judge refused to declare a mistrial Thursday for a murder defendant who allegedly hurled a courtroom chair at a Los Angeles police detective.
Authorities say Jesus Mendez, 23, had just entered a courtroom at the Clara Shortridge Foltz Criminal Justice Center Wednesday when he grabbed the chair and threw it about 15 feet, hitting the detective and grazing a prosecutor.
The detective was treated at Los Angeles County-USC Medical Center before the jury entered the courtroom. Deputy District Hilary Williams was also hit, but was not seriously injured.
Los Angeles Superior Court Judge Ronald H. Rose ordered Mendez to sit in a chair, handcuffed and secured with a restraining belt for the rest of the trial, but none of the restraints can be seen by jurors.
In court Thursday, Williams objected to a defense request for a mistrial and mental competency hearings for Mendez. Williams said she did not believe the outburst was the result of mental illness, but a reaction to testimony that had been presented in court Tuesday.
“It was overnight that I think this defendant’s rage increased,” she said.
“In no way at all is Mr. Mendez mentally ill,” the judge said. “I will not declare a doubt as to his competence.”
The judge also said the chair toss was “preplanned” by Mendez, and noted that a defendant cannot earn a mistrial through his own misbehavior. He also said the jury was not in the courtroom when the chair was thrown.
He did, however, find that Mendez would be a “danger to people in the courtroom if he is not secured to a chair and not handcuffed.”
Mendez is accused of the April 19, 2012, killing of Jamie Sharif Mohammad Abuawad during a robbery in the 800 block of West 81st Street in Vermont Knolls. If convicted, he faces up to life in prison without the possibility of parole.
He was in civilian clothes and not handcuffed while in court Wednesday, which is typical for defendants during trials to avoid prejudicing the jury.
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