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Judge rules Oyler is mentally competent

March 11, 2009 12:00:00 AM PDT
A Riverside judge rules on Wednesday the man convicted of setting the deadly Esperanza Fire is mentally competent.Raymond Lee Oyler was convicted of 37 arson charges and five murder charges last Friday. Five firefighters were killed in the Esperanza wildfire on Oct. 26, 2006.

The prosecutor has asked for the death penalty, but the penalty phase came to a halt on Tuesday afternoon because of Oyler's behavior. As witnesses testified about what happened in 2006, Oyler was seen mumbling, his head and shoulders often jerking from side to side.

The judge ordered a mental evaluation on Oyler, and on Wednesday, ruled that there was no evidence to show he is unfit to go on.

In short, the judge said this is a really bad time in Oyler's life, and he certainly is not in a place he wants to be, but that doesn't matter.

Oyler's attorney then asked that Oyler be removed from the courtroom from now on because, according to his attorney, his actions were distracting and hurting his chances at a fair outcome.

But the judge said to the attorney, "You may be uncomfortable, but so be it. You've assumed that responsibility."

The judge reiterated the fact that Oyler will die in prison. It's just a matter of whether he is put to death or dies of natural causes.