A 28-year-old man accused of helping his brother gun down a Pasco couple in 2008 broke his silence in court Wednesday with several outbursts on the first day of trial.
Jose Garcia-Morales stopped communicating with his lawyers on the murder case before December 2010, and Moe Spencer previously has told the court that he never even has talked to his client.
But on Wednesday morning, Garcia-Morales sat next to the attorneys and shouted a number of things in Spanish. What he said was not interpreted for the court.
Judge Carrie Runge told Garcia-Morales that if he continues to disrupt the proceedings, he will be sanctioned.
Garcia-Morales is on trial in Franklin County Superior Court for first-degree murder, attempted first-degree murder, first-degree rendering criminal assistance and two counts of second-degree assault. All of the charges include firearm allegations.
He repeatedly has refused to cooperate with jail staff and often is brought into court in a wheelchair. However, twice now in less than two weeks he has walked into the courtroom.
On Wednesday he wore street clothes so jurors wouldn't be prejudiced by a jail uniform, but Spencer pointed out that his client only was wearing socks because he wouldn't put on the shoes they gave him.
Then once in front of the jury pool, he continued to interrupt the judge and at one point brushed off an attempt by Spencer to quiet him down.
"Mr. Garcia-Morales, ... let the record reflect that you are in open court and that you have your head bowed and your index fingers in your (ears) and now you have your entire hands covering your ears," Runge said in the earlier hearing.
"Mr. Garcia-Morales, I need you to be silent throughout these proceedings," she added. "We're trying to conduct court. You are interrupting court when you choose to have outbursts. ... You make it difficult for us, sir."
During the hearings, Garcia-Morales often leaned forward over his lap and put his fingers in his ears, but several times he would sit up straight before bowing down again.
At one point, he looked directly into a TV news camera, and when before the jury he glanced around at all the people.
Special Prosecutor Terry Bloor later told Runge he plans to ask for a translation of what Garcia-Morales said out loud in court. He asked the interpreters to start writing down what they remember.
Spencer warned that the defense will oppose such a motion.
Runge ruled in December that Garcia-Morales is competent and can proceed to trial. That came after several visits to Eastern State Hospital, including a lengthy stay for mental health treatment, which included psychotic issues brought on by severe depression.
After a 10-minute recess Wednesday afternoon so Spencer and co-counsel Shelley Ajax could ask their client a series of questions, Spencer told the court he has serious concerns because Garcia-Morales earlier in the day was "saying things that are somewhat delusional," incoherent and not of reality. If that behavior continues during the trial, Spencer said the defense will make a motion to find Garcia-Morales incompetent and send him back for further treatment.
Prosecutors allege that on Dec. 10, 2008, Garcia-Morales went with his older brother, Ramon, to confront Alfredo Garcia about money the brothers believed they were owed because they had been deprived of work in the fields.
Garcia, 42, was shot six times and died from his wounds. His wife, Maria Ramirez de Garcia, was hit four times. She has trouble seeing out of her right eye and now uses a wheelchair, and has no memory of what happened after she dialed 911 that night.
Three of the couple's daughters were in the Manzanita Lane home at the time and had a gun pointed at them, but were not physically harmed because the assailants fled when they heard approaching police sirens.
The brothers were arrested the next day near Mountain Home, Idaho, while reportedly on their way to Southern California.
Ramon Garcia-Morales was convicted last year and is serving a 67-year, two-month prison sentence in the Monroe Correctional Complex.
Ajax previously told the court that her client will deny any involvement in the shooting and argue that he was "merely present" when his brother opened fire.
The rendering criminal assistance charge is an alternative option for jurors if they find Jose Garcia-Morales was not responsible for the shooting but did help his brother avoid arrest and hide evidence.
Lawyers expect to have a jury seated Friday. Opening statements will be given Monday with testimony going through the week.