Prison or Hospital, Doctors Could Determine Pasco Murder Case - NBC Right Now/KNDO/KNDU Tri-Cities, Yakima, WA |

Prison or Hospital, Doctors Could Determine Pasco Murder Case

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A doctor's mental exam could determine if a Pasco man spends the rest of his life in prison or in a mental hospital. A doctor's mental exam could determine if a Pasco man spends the rest of his life in prison or in a mental hospital.

PASCO, WA -A doctor's mental exam could determine if a Pasco man spends the rest of his life in prison or in a mental hospital.

Pasco police arrested Joseph Hart in March of 2012 for the stabbing death of his roommate. Hart and Rodger Lincoln, 53, shared a trailer at the Sundance Mobile Home Park. Lourdes Health Network owns the trailer where it houses patients with mental illnesses. Police say Hart stabbed Lincoln several times during an argument outside the trailer.

Franklin County Superior Court Judge Carrie Runge put Hart's criminal case on hold for several months while psychiatrists at Eastern State Hospital in Cheney examined Hart and treated him for schizophrenia. The doctors diagnosed Hart competent to stand trial.

The doctors also concluded Hart was sane at the time of the killing. However, Scott Johnson, Hart's attorney, says if the case goes to trial he will use an insanity defense.

In court Thursday, Johnson says he remains optimistic he and Franklin County Prosecutor Shawn Sant can reach a plea agreement that would spare Hart from prison.

Hart is scheduled to go on trial in December. If convicted as charged, it would be Hart's third conviction. Under Washington's Three Strikes Law, Hart would face a mandatory life prison term.

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