OAKLAND (CBS SF) — It took a jury only two hours Monday to decide that a 50-year-old former bartender is mentally competent to stand trial on three counts of murder for the brutal hammer attack killings of three women in Oakland more than 25 years ago.

The jury’s verdict means that Michael Monert will have a second trial beginning Nov. 30 on three counts of murder and the special circumstance of committing multiple murders for the deaths of the women in 1989 and 1991.

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Monert’s first trial began on May 17 but at the request of Monert’s attorney, Todd Bequette, Alameda County Superior Court Judge Kevin Murphy declared a mistrial two days later based on Monert’s courtroom conduct, which included talking during opening statements in the case.

Prosecutor Butch Ford said the killings of the three women had gone unsolved for more than 20 years, but in 2012 Monert was arrested and charged with the murder of Pamela Sanders on July 29, 1991, after his fingerprints, which were on file for a separate sexual assault case in Oregon, were matched to those found on a tarp that was covering her body.

After undergoing a preliminary hearing and being ordered to stand trial for Sanders’ death, Monert sent a note to bailiffs at Santa Rita Jail in Dublin in December 2013 saying that he wanted to make a full confession, Ford said.

Monert then provided Oakland police Officer Herb Sanders, who was investigating the case, with details about Sanders’ death and also said he had killed 29-year-old Debra Lynn Adkins at the entrance to Roberts Regional Recreation Area on Skyline Boulevard on Oct. 1, 1989, and 37-year-old Janie Flahiff on May 20, 1991, according to Ford.

Monert was charged with the additional murders in January 2014 but then a long legal odyssey began.

Criminal proceedings against Monert were suspended later in 2014 for him to be mentally evaluated but in 2015 he was found to be mentally competent to stand trial.

After Murphy declared a mistrial in May, he ordered another psychiatrist to examine Monert even though he’d already been examined by a number of other psychiatrists over the years.

His competency trial, which began last week, featured testimony by several psychologists.

In his closing argument in the competency trial earlier Monday, Ford told jurors that they should find Monert to be competent because that is what five of the seven psychiatrists who’ve examined him have said.

Ford admitted that Monert often acts up in court, as Monert did Monday when he disrupted the argument by his own attorney Todd Bequette.

Alameda County Superior Court Judge Kevin Murphy ejected him from the courtroom.
But Ford told jurors, “Focus on what he (Monert) is saying, which is rational.”

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However, Bequette said Monert should be found incompetent because he’s not able to assist him in presenting the defense’s case.

“He’s demanding that I pursue an irrational defense,” Bequette said.

The defense attorney said one of the key issues in the case is that Monert suffered a traumatic brain injury when he was physically assaulted in 2002. He said that triggered a delusional disorder that falsely convinced Monert that he had killed the three women who are listed as the
victims in the case.

Bequette said Monert’s explanation for the reason he confessed “is not rational” because Monert claims he was given a drug that made him confess and he was tortured in his jail cell by the jail’s intercom.

In his opening statement in Monert’s trial in May, Ford said Monert was “a serial killer” who lured women he believed were prostitutes, killed them by hitting them in the head with a hammer and then dumped their bodies in secluded parts of Oakland.

Ford said that when Monert made his confession, he revealed information only the killer would know.

But Bequette said, “The criminal justice system is prosecuting an innocent man,” saying he believes Monert’s delusional disorder is the reason he confessed.

After the jury ruled that Monert is competent to stand trial, Bequette asked Murphy to reverse the verdict based on his opinion that there was no factual basis for it or it was contrary to the law. Murphy will rule on that motion.

In another development after the verdict, Monert asked that he be allowed to represent himself and Murphy said he will hold a hearing on that issue on Thursday.

Shortly before that, four armed bailiffs temporarily removed Monert from the courtroom when he ignored an order by one of the bailiffs that he stop talking to Murphy’s court reporter while Murphy was in his chambers researching a legal issue in the case.

Monert tried to push a heavy wooden chair at the deputies during the encounter and shouted, “I’m trying to have a conversation here!” and, “I’ve never been so insulted in my life!”

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