By Angie Madrid
SAN FRANCISCO, CA – The California Supreme Court reversed defendant Edward Wycoff’s conviction of double murders this week after the district court failed to commence the competency procedures necessary under law.
Defendant Edward Wycoff was sentenced to death after being found guilty for first degree murder in the 2006 killings of his sister and brother-in-law in Contra Costa County.
Prior to the conviction, a court-appointed psychologist evaluated the defendant and deemed Wycoff incompetent to stand trial.
In his report, the psychologist stated, “Because of his grandiosity, [defendant] is not able to rationally consider ‘telling his story’ with the assistance of an attorney. On this ground, I find him incompetent to stand trial.”
Despite the psychologist’s evaluation, Judge John Kennedy rejected the psychologist’s opinion and failed to initiate competency procedures highlighted in California Penal Code sections 1368 and 1369, which require criminal proceedings be suspended and competency proceedings commenced if “a doubt arises in the mind of the judge” regarding the defendant’s competence.
After the judge’s dismissal and personally finding Wycoff mentally competent to stand trial, Wycoff was allowed to represent himself in court.
According to California Supreme Court Justice Martin Jenkins, Wycoff “treated the trial like an entertainment show, made numerous jokes, and admitted all the facts underlying the charges.”
Most of Wycoff’s defense involved story-telling, speculation, and hearsay—demonstrating Wycoff’s inability to represent himself, said the court.
After Wycoff admitted to both killings, sentencing procedures came on Wycoff’s birthday. During the sentencing, Wycoff exclaimed, “Welcome to my birthday party. Is everyone having fun? Is everyone having a good time?”
The jury deliberated for less than two hours, immediately finding Wycoff guilty of both counts of first degree murder.
During the penalty phase of Wycoff’s case, the defendant went further and insulted the jury, stating, “For the wrong decision that was made yesterday, when do I get to beat the amoral tar out of these lumpers.”
According to the court’s ruling, his reaction to the jury showcased his mental illness and incompetency to represent himself in court.
After deliberating on Wycoff’s penalty, the jury returned a verdict of death as to both counts of murder.
The victims’ son addressed the court over the verdict, asserting, “I think it’s very apparent [the defendant] is not a normal person, that he struggles with mental issues even if he didn’t make that argument…For us to kill a crazy person, I think would be wrong.”
Due to the court’s error in failing to initiate formal competency procedures, the California Supreme Court made the unanimous decision to reverse Wycoff’s double murder conviction.
Justice Martin Jenkins stated in the ruling that the court was “presented with substantial evidence of defendant’s mental incompetence — specifically, his inability, due to mental illness, to consult rationally with counsel — and therefore the court was obligated to initiate the competency procedures set forth in sections 1368 and 1369, which it failed to do.”
The court has reversed the conviction entirely, and Wycoff may be retried.