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Gunman Pleads Insanity in Killing of Boss : Justice: Fatal shooting occurred during coffee break at manufacturing plant in San Marcos.

March 17, 1992|JONATHAN GAW | TIMES STAFF WRITER

A 22-year-old man accused of shooting his supervisor to death in San Marcos pleaded not guilty by reason of insanity and not guilty at his arraignment Monday in Vista Superior Court.

Jose Luis Maldonado, who is being held on $1-million bail, stands accused of killing Juan Lopez Rodriguez during a coffee break in January at the manufacturing firm where they worked.

"This guy was truly insane at the time that this occurred. He was delusional, he heard voices, he saw things that weren't there apparently, unless the devil has come to earth," said John Jimenez, the public defender representing Maldonado.

Jimenez said Maldonado's sickness "had been building up over a period of time," but he could not say what caused it.

Maldonado has been receiving anti-psychotic medication since he was taken into custody, Jimenez said.

But Deputy Dist. Atty. Greg Walden said that "based on the facts and circumstances of the case, we don't believe he is insane."

On Wednesday, Jan. 29, Maldonado allegedly walked up to Lopez in a back parking lot of a San Marcos industrial park and, without saying a word to him, shot him. Maldonado then turned and fired at another of his supervisors, Adrian Flores, but missed.

Maldonado, who allegedly brought the .22-caliber automatic handgun to work several times before, then returned to Lopez's prone body and fired a single shot in the back of his head, according to the prosecution.

Judge Thomas J. Whelan will appoint two doctors to examine the factory worker from Oceanside to give their opinions about Maldonado's mental health.

The double plea of not guilty and not guilty by reason of insanity means that there will be two trials, the first to determine if Maldonado is guilty of murder and attempted murder. If found guilty, there will be a second trial in front of the same jury to address only the issue of his sanity at the time.

Jimenez said he based his decision to use the insanity defense on a "thorough examination" of Maldonado that was conducted by his own doctor.

"Basically the test is whether he knew the difference between right and wrong. If you don't know what's right, then you're going to be found insane," Jimenez said.

"They think they're killing an animal or some devil figure, or something non-human," he said.

Walden, who has not had a doctor examine Maldonado, said it's difficult to prove that a person was truly insane at the time of a crime.

"You truly have to be insane. Just because you have some mental problems doesn't mean you are insane. You wouldn't call anyone who commits first-degree murder a reasonable person. They'd all be insane if that were the standard," Walden said.

"It's going to be up to a jury to determine if he's just got a bad attitude or a bad temper, or if he's insane," Walden said.

Although successful insanity defenses in murder cases are rare, Maldonado may have the right attorney in Jimenez, who claims to be the last public defender in San Diego County to have won such a trial.

Last year, in his only other murder case using the insanity plea, Jimenez successfully argued for Larry Wayne Smith, who fatally stabbed a 35-year-old Escondido man.

A readiness hearing for Maldonado was slated for April 16, and his trial is scheduled for May 5.

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