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California Supreme Court overturns murder conviction of death row prisoner

California Supreme Court overturns murder conviction of death row prisoner
Edward Wycoff could be retried on murder charges for the deaths of his sister and brother-in-law. File Photo courtesy of the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation

Aug. 24 (UPI) -- The California Supreme Court has overturned the double murder conviction of a death row prisoner because the trial judge failed to determine the man's mental competency.

The ruling means Edward Wycoff could be retried on charges he killed his sister, Julie Wycoff Rogers, and her husband, Paul Rogers, in 2006 at their home in El Cerrito, Calif. Contra Costa County, though, must first find Wycoff competent to stand trial.

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The state's high court handed down its ruling Monday, writing that the Contra Costa County trial judge "was presented with substantial evidence of defendant's mental incompetence -- specifically, his inability, due to mental illness, to consult rationally with counsel -- and therefore the court was obligated to initiate the competency procedures ... which it failed to do."

Wycoff represented himself during his 2009 trial, telling the court that his sister and brother-in-law deserved what happened to them. Prosecutors said Wycoff was upset that the couple were too liberal and he wanted to adopt their three children.

Eric Rogers, the couple's oldest child, testified during the trial that he didn't want his uncle to be sentenced to death because he was "mentally childish." He told reporters he also wanted to spare Wycoff because his parents didn't agree with the death penalty.

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A Contra Costa County jury sentenced Wycoff to death in 2009, to which he responded, "Dead man walking," as he was led out of the court room.

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