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Man Faces New Sanity Trial in Double Murder

November 24, 1989|JERRY HICKS | TIMES STAFF WRITER

SANTA ANA — Ronald James Blaney Jr., the young deaf man convicted in the stabbing deaths of his ex-girlfriend and her mother two years ago, will face a new sanity trial April 10, the judge and lawyers in the case agreed this week.

Blaney, 32, of Fountain Valley was convicted by a jury in September of first-degree murder in the May 4, 1987, death of Priscilla Vinci, 33, and her mother, Josephine Vinci, 65, at their Santa Ana home.

But jurors were deadlocked in a separate phase of the trial to determine whether Blaney had been sane at the time. Two jurors held out for an insanity verdict. That forced Superior Court Judge Leonard H. McBride to declare a mistrial on the sanity issue.

Deputy Dist. Atty. Robert H. Gannon said a new sanity trial will almost be like a new trial. "A new jury is going to have to hear all the evidence about these murders and what led up to them," he explained.

While Blaney's first-degree murder verdict still stands, the issue now is whether he will be sent to state prison, as prosecutors recommend, or a state mental hospital, which the defense is seeking.

Because jurors found him guilty of multiple murder, Blaney faces an automatic sentence of life in prison without parole if the new jury finds him sane. If he is found insane, he would be committed to an institution for the rest of his life, but with options available for his eventual release should doctors find he has improved.

Blaney was distraught at the time of the stabbings because Priscilla Vinci did not want to continue their relationship. Blaney had told his family that he wanted to marry her. Blaney admitted the stabbings, though he claims he was not aware that what he did resulted in the women's deaths.

The women had been stabbed more than a dozen times each. Jurors also returned a finding of torture in the younger woman's death, another life-without-parole special circumstance.

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