A judge ruled Friday that Edward Patrick Morgan Jr. is mentally competent to stand trial next year on charges that he sexually assaulted and murdered a woman outside an Orange nightclub last year.
Orange County Superior Court Judge Richard L. Weatherspoon made his ruling after reviewing reports by two psychiatrists who evaluated Morgan, a 28-year-old Orange bodybuilding enthusiast.
“Both doctors concluded that he was competent to stand trial,” said Julian W. Bailey, Morgan’s defense lawyer.
Weatherspoon set a Jan. 16 trial date and urged Morgan to cooperate fully with Bailey in preparing the case, which could send the defendant to Death Row.
“You should do your very best to furnish your attorney with all information possible to mitigate the circumstance,” Weatherspoon said. “The result that could follow is the ultimate result--the death penalty.”
Morgan, who has maintained his innocence, nodded as he sat shackled at the defense table. He wore an orange jail jumpsuit.
Morgan is accused of killing 23-year-old Leanora Annette Wong, a Huntington Beach woman who first met Morgan at the club on the night of her May 20, 1994, slaying. Wong’s mutilated body was found in a parking lot near the club. She had been raped with a foreign object, authorities said.
Morgan, who has a history of sexual assaults, was linked to the crime through fingerprints, witnesses who saw him with Wong and a videotape from a security camera mounted on a nearby building. Bailey says that Morgan is not the man shown on the videotape.
Morgan was arrested in Northern California after a weeklong manhunt.
The case created an outcry when it was revealed that Morgan had escaped the most serious charges in nearly all his previous sexual assaults cases.