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Murderer Decides Against Withdrawing Insanity Plea

November 06, 1986|JERRY HICKS | Times Staff Writer

Against the advice of his attorneys, convicted serial killer Teofilo (Junior) Medina decided against withdrawing his insanity plea Wednesday, shortly before the penalty phase of his trial was to begin.

Superior Court Judge James K. Turner said he had no choice but to grant Medina's request, and he called in jurors for a sanity phase that they had been told on Monday would not take place.

Medina, 43, was convicted last month of first-degree murder in the execution-style slayings of three convenience store clerks in separate robbery incidents in Orange County between Oct. 18 and Nov. 5, 1984. Special circumstances of multiple murder and robbery were found, which allow prosecutors to seek a death verdict, unless a jury accepts an insanity plea.

Traced by License Plate

Medina had been paroled from prison in Arizona, where he served a rape sentence, three months before the killings. He was living with a sister in Lake Elsinore when police arrested him on Nov. 7, 1984, after tracing the license plate of a car that had left the scene of an attempted robbery at a Santa Ana convenience store. Experts said Medina's gun was used in all three slayings in the three-week period before his arrest.

Medina withdrew his insanity plea on Monday after his lawyers informed the court that three psychiatrists and a psychologist who had interviewed their client all agreed that he suffered from mental impairment but was not insane at the time of the murders.

But Wednesday, Medina said he wanted to return to the insanity plea.

"It's been very frustrating for us," said Ronald P. Kreber, one of his attorneys. "We have spent hours explaining to him that we have no experts who could tell a jury he was insane. But Junior says he got to thinking about his change of plea Monday and decided that since he has a right to a sanity phase, he wants it."

Kreber told the jurors that Medina, who did not testify at the guilt phase of his trial, would testify in the sanity phase. Medina will probably take the stand today.

The three store clerks killed were Horacio H. Ariza, 20, at an Arco mini-market in Santa Ana on Oct. 18; Douglas M. Metal, 21, at a Garden Grove drive-in dairy, on Nov. 4, and Victor M. Rea, 20, at a Gaso mini-mart in Santa Ana on Nov. 5.

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