Defendant in road rage case ruled competent to stand trial |

Defendant in road rage case ruled competent to stand trial

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A Nevada City man who was charged in a 2001 road rage case is competent to stand trial, a judge decided Friday morning.

Criminal charges were reinstated against Bruce D. Kirkpatrick, 62, of Nevada City after Judge Ersel Edwards found that a report from Sacramento psychologist Shawn Johnston proved that Kirkpatrick is able to help in his own defense and understand court proceedings.

Kirkpatrick was initially deemed incompetent to stand trial because of head injuries he sustained in the crash on March 7, 2001, that killed Jesse Roberts of Grass Valley. Roberts would have been 24 Thursday.

Kirkpatrick and another man, Raymond Herve, 46, of Grass Valley were arrested for their roles in a high-speed confrontation.

According to witnesses and California Highway Patrol reports, Kirkpatrick cut off Herve at the Golden Center Freeway southbound exit at Empire Street. Herve followed Kirkpatrick in a race at more than 80 mph west on Highway 20. Herve passed Kirkpatrick and hit his brakes. Kirkpatrick then lost control of his pickup, which skidded sideways into the oncoming lane and struck Roberts’ car.

Roberts, a computer technician, was returning from helping a paralyzed woman fix her specialized computer mouse. He died at the scene.

Kirkpatrick remained in a coma for several weeks.

Herve was acquitted in May when Edwards ruled in a nonjury trial that the prosecution did not prove beyond a reasonable doubt that Herve drove recklessly out of anger.

A pretrial conference for Kirkpatrick is set for 1 p.m. Nov. 14. If both sides work out an agreement – or dispose of the case through a plea bargain – the case may not go to trial.

Kirkpatrick could face up to six years in prison or no time, depending on what both sides work out in the conference, District Attorney Mike Ferguson said.

Laura Roberts, Jesse Roberts’ mother, who attended the court proceeding with a friend, said Edwards’ finding was a positive move.

“There never can be real, true justice,” said Roberts, who also said her religious faith sustained her, her husband and daughter Jerusha through their ordeal.

“We feel sorry for both men,” she said. “They’ve touched our life big-time, but they’ve ruined theirs.”

Kirkpatrick’s attorney, Dewey Harpainter, declined to comment. He said his client also had no comment.

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