A court-appointed psychiatrist has found inmate Jesse Serrano incompetent to stand trial in the death of his cellmate, but another doctor will examine Serrano later this month.

Serrano, 40, is charged with killing 34-year-old Gustavo Vital at Kern Valley State Prison. Serrano was serving a 16-year sentence for using a hostage as a human shield in Los Angeles County at the time of Vital's 2015 death.  

In court Wednesday, Serrano, wearing dark glasses and a white jumpsuit, smiled often and asked "Why?" when told another doctor would examine him. Prosecutor Brandon Stallings requested the second opinion.

The second doctor will meet with Serrano on June 27, and a hearing on those findings will be held July 25. 

In determining a defendant's competency, a judge weighs evidence including the testimony of doctors, and determines whether a defendant understands the criminal proceedings against them and can assist in the preparation of a defense.

If a judge determines at the July hearing that Serrano is not competent, criminal proceedings will be suspended and Serrano will be placed in a state hospital until he's restored to competency. 

According to court documents, an officer at Kern Valley State Prison, which is in Delano, heard yelling from Section C of the facility at about 1:50 a.m. on Nov. 11, 2015. An officer conducted a security check and found Serrano standing by his cell door.

Serrano told the officer his cellmate, Vital, was dead, according to the documents. As Serrano was removed from the cell, prison staff heard him say, "I killed my cellie."

Staff cut a ligature off Vital's neck and began CPR, the documents say. Vital was pronounced dead at 2:20 a.m. 

Vital was received by California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation out of Los Angeles County on March 19, 2012. He was serving a sentence of 33 years and four months for second-degree robbery.

Serrano is currently being housed at Pleasant Valley State Prison. 

Jason Kotowski can be reached at 395-7491. Follow him on Twitter @tbcbreakingnews. 

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