Psychologist affirms accused killer was sane

Kristin M. Kraemer, Tri-City HeraldNovember 26, 2013 

Joseph Hart

A paranoid schizophrenic charged with killing his Pasco housemate likely will take his case to trial because a state psychologist is holding firm to his conclusion that the man was sane at the time of the stabbing.

Joseph W. Hart and his attorney, Scott Johnson, asked the Eastern State Hospital official last month to reconsider his finding, and forwarded previous medical records to support their case.

But Johnson told the court Tuesday that Randall Strandquist didn't change his mind about Hart's mental state when Hart killed Rodger A. Lincoln in March 2012.

The defense had been trying to resolve the case with a plea of "not guilty by reason of insanity." Without that determination, Franklin County prosecutors can't agree to a plea unless it is a guilty one, which means Hart must decide if he wants to take his chances at trial.

Hart, 29 is charged in Franklin County Superior Court with second-degree murder.

He can choose to have the case presented before a 12-member jury or opt for a judge-only trial so Judge Carrie Runge would weigh the evidence and make a decision.

Trial is scheduled Dec. 9. Hart will return to court next week to announce if he is ready.

If found guilty, Hart could be facing his third strike under Washington law and a life sentence in prison. But if the judge signs an acquittal order based on insanity, Hart would be committed indefinitely to a state psychiatric facility while remaining under the control of the court.

Hart, who also has an antisocial personality disorder, shared a home with Lincoln and another roommate in the Sundance Mobile Home Park on North Elm Avenue. The home is one of several owned by Lourdes Health Network and is used as housing for people with mental illnesses.

Neighbors reported seeing the men struggling in their front yard.

Lincoln, 53, was stabbed several times in the torso and head with a hunting-type knife.

Johnson always has questioned his client's sanity at the time of the deadly fight.

Hart had several mental health evaluations and spent time at Eastern State Hospital in Medical Lake to restore his competency. That treatment included anti-depressant and anti-psychotic medications and participation in educational groups designed to help Hart understand the court process.

Strandquist, the psychologist, determined that Hart could tell right from wrong when he allegedly killed Lincoln. Strandquist reportedly stands by that finding after reading the additional reports provided by the defense.

Hart remains in jail on $750,000 bail.

Man pleads innocent to assault on Burbank resident in 2012

A 38-year-old man is accused of punching a Burbank man and knocking him to the ground after the victim confronted him outside a Pasco tavern about stealing $70.

Dale Pesina Jr., also of Burbank, pleaded innocent to second-degree assault for the Nov. 24, 2012, incident. His trial is set for Feb. 12.

Pasco police were called to The Dugout Tavern just before midnight for reports of a fight. The victim was unconscious on the ground. An officer arrived to find several people standing around the victim, including Pesina, who was identified by a witness as the aggressor, court documents said.

It started with a dispute between Pesina and Einar Frimodt IV. Frimodt confronted Pesina in the 7111 Burden Boulevard parking lot near his own truck, and as Frimodt turned, he was hit on the right jaw, documents said.

The force of the punch reportedly caused Frimodt to lose consciousness and fall to the ground without being able to catch himself. Hitting the pavement caused several injuries, including four broken teeth and a cut to the back of his head that required seven stitches.

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