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Convicted murderer Christopher Lightsey will return to death row. A jury has found he was competent in his 1994 trial.

Felix Adamo / The Californian

Convicted murderer Christopher Charles Lightsey will soon return to the place he called home for 17 years: San Quentin State Prison.

A jury Friday found Lightsey was competent during his trial in 1994 to 1995 for the murder of an elderly cancer patient. He did not accept the verdict quietly.

"This is the most tyrannical, racketeering court I have ever seen in my life," Lightsey said as deputies removed him from the courtroom.

The verdict ends a 2 1/2-year saga that began with the California Supreme Court's 2012 ruling that a Kern County judge violated state law by allowing Lightsey to represent himself during a competency hearing and by failing to appoint an attorney for his trial. Lightsey represented himself for six months during his trial before two attorneys were appointed to his case.

A new murder trial would have been scheduled if the jury had found Lightsey incompetent.

District Attorney Lisa Green said afterward it was appropriate these proceedings were held because the law is clear Lightsey was entitled to an attorney. But she said she always believed there was enough information from court transcripts and witnesses to prove he was competent back then.

That's not to say there weren't difficulties in this hearing, which both attorneys said was very unusual in its circumstances. Most competency hearings are held to determine a defendant's current level of competency.

In this case, jurors had to decide whether a defendant was competent 20 years ago. Several attorneys and doctors who examined Lightsey at that time have died, and others are disabled and live out of state and were unable to travel.

Richard Terry, who represented Lightsey in the current hearing along with co-counsel Tony Lidgett, said he was "obviously disappointed" by the jury's verdict. He said Lightsey has never been able to cooperate with him and Lidgett, just as he was incapable of cooperating with his attorneys in 1994 and 1995.

Terry also said he doesn't think it's possible to recreate circumstances and effectively determine someone's competency from so long ago.

"I think it's an absurdity," he said.

Lightsey will return to death row, but a hearing is scheduled for Feb. 27 to determine if a new death warrant has to be issued before San Quentin once again accepts him as an inmate.

He was first transported there following his 1995 conviction of the murder of William Compton. He stabbed Compton 42 times and stole his gun collection, a jar of coins and other items.

Lightsey is also considered a suspect in the 1990 killing of 4-year-old Jessica Martinez. That case has never been submitted to the District Attorney's office due to lack of evidence.

Green said in her closing argument Friday morning that Lightsey was competent under the three prongs used to determine competency: He understood the nature and purpose of the proceedings against him; he understood his own status in the proceedings; and he was able to assist his attorneys in a rational manner. Green noted Lightsey butted heads with numerous attorneys, but he was capable of rationally assisting them; he just chose at times not to do so.

The only time his outbursts in 1994 and 1995 resulted in measures being taken against him was when he was gagged during his sentencing. Otherwise, he followed the court's orders and quieted down when told to do so, Green said.

She presented witnesses including deputies and doctors during the competency hearing who said Lightsey was capable of being understood. One of his former attorneys, Kern County Superior Court Commissioner Ralph McKnight Jr., said Lightsey was "minimally" capable of cooperating with attorneys, but he did have the ability to cooperate.

Terry argued Lightsey's delusional views skewed how he understood the court proceedings in 1994 to 1995. Several doctors testified Lightsey was paranoid and believed there was a conspiracy comprised of prosecutors, judges and even his own attorneys working against him.

Terry said Lightsey had "a total lack of connection with the real world when it came to certain target issues."

Jurors deliberated for about two hours before reaching a verdict. The trial lasted seven days, and Lightsey was removed from court on each one for disrupting the proceedings with outbursts.

Green said following the verdict she's happy she prevailed, but it's hard to get too excited. There's always another appeal that will be filed.

"It's really never over," she said.

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