In a legal move that could lead to another delay in the county’s longest-running criminal case, an attorney for accused triple-murderer Thomas Maniscalco said Wednesday he is seeking to have his client declared mentally incompetent to stand trial.
Maniscalco has difficulty recalling events and an inability to make decisions, hindering efforts to prepare a defense, attorney Curt Livesay said after a court hearing Wednesday.
Maniscalco, 48, a lawyer and founder of the Hessians motorcycle gang, is charged in the Memorial Day, 1980, murders of two men and a woman in Westminster.
A psychologist who specializes in sensory deprivation has determined that Maniscalco’s jail stay--which stretches back to his arrest in 1984 and sets a county record for pretrial confinement--could have an impact on his ability to assist in his own defense, Livesay said.
But in an unusual twist, Maniscalco opposes the move, Livesay said.
“I’m not asking that charges be dismissed. I’m just asking for a fair trial,” Livesay said outside court. “I find myself in an awkward legal situation because my client wants to go to trial because he knows he is innocent.”
A jury is expected to be picked Friday for a hearing to decide Maniscalco’s mental competence.
Orange County Superior Court Judge Kathleen E. O’Leary expressed concerns at Wednesday’s hearing about further delays and inconvenience to potential jurors, who are already in the beginning stages of the selection process. Deputy Dist. Atty. Rick King said he also wants to see the case proceed to trial as quickly as possible.
Maniscalco’s case has been stalled repeatedly by deadlocked juries, separate trials for the defendants and appeals to higher courts.
Maniscalco and Daniel M. Duffy, 50, were charged in the murders of fellow Hessian Richard Rizzone, 36; Rizzone’s bodyguard, Thomas Monahan, 28, and Rizzone’s girlfriend, Rena Miley, 19, who was also raped. Duffy has been convicted and sentenced to life in prison.
Prosecutors allege that Maniscalco and Duffy orchestrated the murders because they believed Rizzone was skimming profits from the motorcycle gang’s counterfeiting and drug-dealing operations.