A man was convicted Thursday of murdering his Sacramento jail cellmate a day after his arrest for attacking a Home Depot employee with a hammer.
Richard Russell Harden, 53, was charged with murder and assault in Sacramento Superior Court following the back-to-back September 2009 attacks, but case proceedings were put on hold when Harden was deemed mentally incompetent to stand trial in 2015.
Harden had been placed in Napa State Hospital, a psychiatric facility, twice since the 2009 arrest, Harden’s lawyer Robert Saria said.
He was returned to Sacramento on a certification of being presently competent, which sent the case back to trial, Saria said.
Sign Up and Save
Get six months of free digital access to The Sacramento Bee
The case proceeded to trial as Harden wanted, because he believed he was innocent, Saria said.
Harden was convicted by jury of second-degree murder of his cellmate, Evaristo Ramirez, and assault with a deadly weapon on Thursday, the Sacramento County District Attorney’s Office said in a press release.
Harden faces a maximum sentence of 19 years to life in prison. Sentencing is set for Sept. 14.
Harden walked into the Folsom Boulevard Home Depot on February 16, 2009, where he attacked a Latina woman.
According to prior Bee reporting, after the incident Harden allegedly said “you should let me go. They come over the border and take all of our jobs.”
This was presented in court during latest trial and Harden denied making the comment, Saria said.
He was booked into jail and placed in a cell with Ramirez, a day laborer and Mexican national who was jailed the day before on suspicion of DUI. The next day, Ramirez was found unresponsive in the cell when officers allegedly appeared 20 minutes after another inmate activated an emergency alert, previous Bee reporting states.
Ramirez’s family filed a wrongful-death lawsuit against the county, alleging that jail employees improperly placed Harden in the same cell as Ramirez. Attorneys for the family maintained that Harden had a racial prejudice against Mexican nationals.
Before trial, a judge dismissed the portion of the suit that targeted Harden’s classification. The judge ruled that jail employees are immune from civil actions that challenge their discretion on cell placements.
A jury later exonerated the remaining deputy defendant who was accused in the civil suit of failing to respond fast enough to a third inmate’s emergency call about a ruckus in the Harden-Ramirez cell.