A convicted killer's refusal to cooperate with his attorneys while his Franklin County case dragged on for 21/2 years doesn't render him unable to stand trial, a state Court of Appeals panel ruled Tuesday.
Ramon Garcia-Morales' 67-year sentence stands after the court found that Judge Vic VanderSchoor did not abuse his discretion when he permitted the 2008 case to go before a jury.
The court did question if police located Garcia-Morales in Idaho based on "illegal cellphone tracking," touching on expectation of privacy issues. However, since his lawyer didn't raise the Fourth Amendment right on appeal, the three-judge panel said the suspect was arrested on a valid warrant and ended up giving a full confession to a Pasco detective the following day.
Garcia-Morales, now 33, was convicted in June 2011 of first-degree murder, attempted first-degree murder, two counts of second-degree assault and four firearm charges.
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Garcia-Morales and his younger brother, Jose, were upset about a missed work opportunity and fatally shot Alfredo Garcia inside the 42-year-old man's Pasco home.
The victim's wife, Maria Ramirez de Garcia, was partially paralyzed after she was hit by four bullets. Two of the couple's teen daughters and their toddler had a gun pointed at them.
The appellate court also denied the argument that VanderSchoor should have moved the trial to another county because of pretrial publicity, saying potential jurors may have heard of the case but the coverage wasn't "particularly inflammatory."
"Even when trying the most severe of charges, the defendant is not entitled to an ignorant jury," the opinion said.
Garcia-Morales is serving his time in the Monroe Correctional Complex.