Hart Goes with Judge as Jury, Will Use Insanity Defense - NBC Right Now/KNDO/KNDU Tri-Cities, Yakima, WA |

Hart Goes with Judge as Jury, Will Use Insanity Defense

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PASCO, WA. -A man about to go on trial for second degree murder has decided he wants the judge, not a jury, to render the verdict.

During Wednesday's brief hearing, Franklin County Superior Court Judge Carrie Runge asked Joseph Hart if he understood he was waiving his right to a jury trial. Hart answered yes.

Scott Johnson, Hart's attorney, also entered a not guilty plea to a second-degree assault charge, which prosecutor Shawn Sant added after Hart turned down a plea offer.

Johnson says Hart will use an insanity defense on both charges.

If convicted, Hart faces a life prison term under Washington State's three Strikes Law. Johnson had expressed optimism about a plea deal that would spare Hart from prison in favor of an indefinite sentence to a state psychiatric facility.

Runge Wednesday also agreed to delay the trial four weeks to January 6 at the request of Sant, who said he wants to get outstanding toxicology results back before beginning presenting evidence.  

Pasco police arrested Hart in March 2012 at the Sundance Mobile Home Park where Hart shared a trailer with Rodger Lincoln. Police found Lincoln with several stab wounds outside the trailer.

The trailer was owned by Lourdes Health Network, which provides housing for mental health patients.

Hart spent several months under observation by state psychiatrists, who diagnosed and treated Hart for Schizophrenia. Doctors also determined Hart was sane when he stabbed Lincoln.  

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