Paulo Virgen Mendoza

Paulo Virgen Mendoza

The attorney representing the defendant charged with murdering Newman Police Department Cpl. Ronil Singh during an early-morning traffic stop on Dec. 26 contended in court last Thursday that a mental competency evaluation to which his client submitted violated his rights.

Paulo Virgen Mendoza, who is accused of killing Singh, was interviewed for the mental health evaluation on Jan. 24, one day after his attorney Stephen Foley told Stanislaus County Superior Court Judge Ricardo Cordova that he had advised his client against doing so.

Foley had told the court Jan. 23 that his questions surrounding Mendoza’s mental competency to stand trial had been based on a brief conversation with the defendant before his initial court appearance, and that his concerns about Mendoza’s competency had since been satisfied.

He asked that the evaluation process be terminated and criminal proceedings reinstated, but Cordova ordered the report completed.

Foley argued in court last week that the interview was a violation of due process and Mendoza’s Fifth Amendment rights. He asked that the judge seal the report and continue the hearing, during which Cordova was to review the report to determine whether Mendoza was mentally competent to stand trial in the case.

He expressed concern that the report contains information which the prosecutor may use in its case against Mendoza, but Cordova said the report includes only limited references to the defendant’s version of what transpired the night Singh was killed.

At the time Thursday’s proceeding started, the judge and defense attorney had seen the report but Deputy District Attorney Jeff Mangar, who is prosecuting the case, had not.

Mangar said that, as a result of conversations between he and Foley regarding the defense attorney’s concerns, the DA’s office agreed to keep the report under seal until the question of its release could be addressed in court.

Mangar said he would like to see the report.

Foley said he would turn over the report if necessary, but contended that it should first be determined if the court should have granted his Jan. 23 request to halt the mental competency evaluation and proceed with the case.

Had the judge agreed to do so, Foley said, his client would not have been interviewed the following day.

The decision to proceed with the competency report changed the approach he has had to take with the case, Foley told the court.

Mangar, however, had argued that once concerns of mental competency are raised, the evaluation process must be completed.

Like a bullet fired from a gun, Mangar said Thursday, a question of mentally competency “cannot be called back.”

Judge Cordova ordered that a copy of the report be handed over to Mangar, but then ordered the report to be sealed and scheduled an April 8 date for the parties to return to court for a subsequent hearing on the matter.

Mendoza was originally arrested and booked under an alias, Gustavo Perez Arriaga.