Nevada County murder suspect’s competency hearing delayed | TheUnion.com

Nevada County murder suspect’s competency hearing delayed

Joseph Ward

Joseph Ward, facing a murder charge in the June death of Kenneth Pestana, has refused to speak with a psychiatrist for his competency evaluation.

Ward's silence has temporarily stymied the case, on hold until an evaluation occurs, and caused attorneys on Friday to discuss the possibility of having a different doctor examine him. Attorneys also discussed whether a doctor could determine Ward's competency based on reports, if he continues to refuse to talk.

No decision was made Friday in Nevada County Superior Court. Attorneys will return Jan. 26 after discussing outside of court how to proceed.

"I have been working on finding a doctor who might be able to do an assessment without an in-person interview," Deputy Public Defender Tamara Zuromskis said, referring to UC Davis Dr. Jason Roof.

Assistant District Attorney Chris Walsh opposed the move, noting a judge already has appointed a local doctor to assess Ward, 32. He argued there's a key difference between a defendant who can't meet with a doctor and one who refuses to talk to one.

Walsh also said he opposed an evaluation performed by a doctor hired by the defense.

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Roof testified for Jason Schuller, the 36-year-old man convicted last month of first-degree murder.

"There's no evidence that's been presented that the defendant is incompetent," Walsh said.

Zuromskis said she'd meet with Walsh outside of court to discuss the issue. Judge Tom Anderson then set another hearing for three weeks.

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