Accused Fresno rampage killer Kori Ali Muhammad's attorney entered a not guilty plea on Muhammad's behalf on Wednesday to murder and attempted murder charges. The lawyer, Richard Beshwate Jr., revealed in Fresno Superior Court that he would seek an additional plea of not guilty by reason of insanity.
The Fresno County District Attorney's office announced on Tuesday that it would seek the death penalty if Muhammad is convicted of killing four people and attempting to kill several others during a spree in central Fresno last April.
Police say Muhammad, 39, has confessed to the shootings, saying they were fueled by his hatred for white people.
At Wednesday's hearing, Muhammad had three outbursts in which he said that black people need reparations for slavery or natural disasters will plague America. He was temporarily removed from the courtroom.
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Between the outbursts, Beshwate entered a not guilty plea on behalf of Muhammad to murder charges in connection with the killings of Mark Gassett, David Jackson and Zackary Randalls on April 18 near downtown Fresno.
Beshwate also said Muhammad is not guilty of the attempted murders of Stephen Walter, Michael Flores and Mark Greer. In addition, Beshwate said Muhammad is not guilty of the murder of Motel 6 security guard Carl Allen Williams III, who was shot while working on April 13, and the attempted murder of security guard Oscar Menjivar, who witnessed Williams' killing.
Beshwate also entered a plea of not guilty by reason of insanity. But he later withdrew the plea, saying his client had to make it. Since Muhammad had been removed from the courtroom, Beshwate said his client will likely enter the plea at the next court date on April 25.
Because the charges are contained in two criminal cases, Beshwate and prosecutor Brian Hutchins plan to consolidate them into one case on April 25. In addition, Judge Jonathan Conklin is expected to rule on Beshwate's motion to obtain Muhammad's confidential juvenile records.
Muhammad, who grew up in Fresno and Sacramento, faces the death penalty because the prosecution has filed two special circumstance allegations – that he committed a multiple murder and that the killings were based on race.
Beshwate, however, said Muhammad shouldn't be executed because he has a long documented history of schizophrenia, delusions and hearing voices. Two court-appointed doctors have already found him incompetent to stand trial. A third doctor, hired by the prosecution, said he is competent to stand trial.
If found innocent by reason of insanity, Muhammad would not go back on the streets; he would be locked up in a state hospital for the criminally insane.
In a ruling in January, Conklin ruled that Muhammad is competent to stand trial. A month later, Conklin ordered Muhammad to stand trial after hearing testimony from police detectives about his confession to the deadly rampage.