The murder case against Paulo Virgen Mendoza, the accused killer of Newman Police Cpl. Ronil Singh, will remain on hold until a mental health evaluation of the defendant is completed, a Stanislaus County Superior Court judge ruled last Wednesday.
Defense attorney Stephen Foley, who had expressed concern about Mendoza’s mental competency to stand trial during the defendant’s initial court appearance, told Judge Ricardo Cordova last week that he had since spent “significant time” with Mendoza and that his doubts had been satisfied.
He asked Cordova to reinstate the criminal proceeding and arraign Mendoza - but Deputy District Attorney Jeff Mangar, who is prosecuting the case, argued that the case should not move forward until Mendoza had undergone a mental health evaluation.
Proceeding with trial without a full evaluation after the defendant’s mental competency had been called into question could call the verdict into question if Mendoza was convicted, Mangar stated.
Raising the question of mental competency is not a “light switch” that the defense can flip on and off, the prosecutor added.
Foley said his efforts were solely guided by a desire to “vigorously defend my client.”
He indicated that he instructed his client not to take part in the evaluation, and said that a court order to do so would be an “exercise in futility.”
Mendoza, he added, cannot be compelled to give up his Fifth Amendment rights.
Judge Cordova, however, denied the defense to reinstate the criminal case and ordered the mental health evaluation to be held.
If Mendoza refuses to participate, the judge said, the court will deal with it at that time.
Mendoza is scheduled to return to court Feb. 7, at which time a doctor’s report will be reviewed by the court.
Foley expressed reservations, however, as to whether the report would be completed by the scheduled court date.
Mendoza is accused of shooting and killing Newman Police Cpl. Ronil Singh during an early morning traffic stop Dec. 26 at Merced and Eucalyptus.
Mendoza was arrested in the Bakersfield area after an extensive 55-hour manhunt involving multiple agencies. He was initially arrested and booked under the name Gustavo Perez Arriaga.
Shackled and wearing a red and white inmate jumpsuit, Mendoza watched the proceedings Wednesday as a Spanish language interpreter relayed what was being said.
Several members of Singh’s family looked on from the opposite side of the courtroom.