While his own lawyers were questioning his mental state on Friday, murder suspect Luis Monroy Bracamontes appeared to be enjoying himself once again during a hearing in Sacramento Superior Court on the killing of two deputies.
Bracamontes, 35, smiled broadly at spectators as he sat under guard at the defense table inside Judge Steve White’s fourth-floor courtroom. He tried unsuccessfully to make small talk after the hearing with his co-defendant and wife, Janelle Monroy, 38, who sat nearby but largely ignored his attempts at banter.
Even after a Sacramento County sheriff’s deputy admonished him with a stern “No talking” warning, Bracamontes could not keep himself from greeting White as he passed by the judge’s bench on his way back to jail.
“Have a nice day,” Bracamontes said to White, who moments before had suspended criminal proceedings in the case and ordered mental evaluations of the defendant.
White’s order came after a brief closed session between the judge and Bracamontes’ lawyers, and an equally brief public court session held to consider a request by public defenders Jeffrey Barbour and Norman Dawson that their client’s mental state be evaluated.
Bracamontes’ lawyers requested the move in a court filing June 30 that said they had met with him over the past eight months and wanted a determination of whether he is competent to face trial in the case, which could result in the death penalty against Bracamontes.
White ordered the appointment of two specialists to examine Bracamontes and report back by Sept. 4 on his mental state.
If the doctors find Bracamontes competent, he will face trial in the October slayings of Sacramento County sheriff’s Deputy Danny Oliver and Placer County sheriff’s Deputy Michael Davis Jr. If he is found mentally incompetent, he can be held at a state hospital until he is found able to stand trial.
His wife is a co-defendant in the case and faces up to life in prison.
The mental exam was ordered after a series of court appearances during which Bracamontes exhibited unusual behavior, including one in which he blurted out that he was guilty and wanted an execution date. Other times he has ignored the seriousness of his situation, asking for coffee or suggesting that he might not be able to make a scheduled hearing because he would be “busy.”
The evaluations are designed to determine whether Bracamontes is mentally competent to understand the proceedings he faces and to assist in his own defense. The suspension of the criminal case delays a trial for at least five weeks, and White has made clear in the past that he wants the case moving forward.
But even if Bracamontes is found competent and the case against him resumes, further delays are expected, including the possibility that his lawyers will seek a change of venue because of the massive publicity the case has generated.