Competency trial set for May in Joseph Ward murder case | TheUnion.com

Competency trial set for May in Joseph Ward murder case

Joseph Ward

A doctor's report states murder suspect Joseph Ward is incompetent, leading a Nevada County judge on Friday to set a trial on that issue for May 8.

Prosecutors now must prove to a jury that Ward, 32, was competent at the time of Kenneth Pestana's death.

If they prevail, Ward will then proceed to trial on his murder charge. He'd be transferred to a state hospital in an attempt to restore his competency if jurors find that he is, in fact, incompetent.

"We're also going to explore the possibility of getting our own doctor appointed on the case," Assistant District Attorney Chris Walsh said.

Attorneys on Friday discussed the recent report in front of Superior Court Judge Tom Anderson, who set aside concerns of the public defender and opted to set a trial date. Deputy Public Defender Thomas Angell, standing in for Ward's defense attorney, said he wanted to delay setting a date out of concern over potential witness scheduling conflicts.

Anderson said he wanted the case to move forward.

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"Estimated time — I'm thinking three to five days," the judge said of the trial's length.

Authorities claim Ward, who refused to go to court on Friday, killed the 62-year-old Pestana on the older man's property, about 10 miles northeast of Nevada City. Officers arrested Ward in Carson City a day after Pestana's body was found.

To contact Staff Writer Alan Riquelmy, email ariquelmy@theunion.com or call 530-477-4239.