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California man convicted in racially motivated killings likely faces life in prison

Kori Ali Muhammad, who authorities say targeted white men in three killings and also killed a security guard, withdrew his insanity plea.
Posted at 8:10 AM, May 01, 2020

The sanity phase of a trial for a California man convicted of fatally shooting three men in a racially motivated rampage that targeted white men did not take place as scheduled this week after the suspect withdrew his insanity plea, authorities said.

Fresno County District Attorney Lisa A. Smittcamp announced last Friday that the withdrawal of the plea means Kori Ali Muhammad is expected to be sentenced to life in prison without the possibility of parole when he is sentenced next month.

Muhammad, 42, was convicted April 22 of one count of first-degree murder, three counts of second-degree murder and other counts in connection with the April 18, 2017, slayings in downtown Fresno, as well as a previous killing of a security guard outside a motel.

Muhammad said at trial that he killed all four people and that he had planned to kill white men in the downtown Fresno shootings. Muhammad is black.

After the conviction, Muhammad was scheduled to start the sanity phase of the trial on Monday, which would have determined whether he spent the rest of his life in a hospital or in prison or whether he faced the death penalty.

But since he withdrew the plea of not guilty by reason of insanity, that did not go forward. Smittcamp said Friday that that took the death penalty off the table in light of the withdrawal and the jury's verdict.

California has not executed an inmate since 2006. In March 2019, Gov. Gavin Newsom announced a moratorium on the state's death penalty, but prosecutors can still seek it.

Muhammad killed the security guard, Carl Williams III, 25, outside a motel on April 13, 2017, after what prosecutors described as a verbal altercation. Five days later, he killed Zackary David Randalls, 34, of Clovis, and Mark James Gassett, 37, and David Martin Jackson, 58, both of Fresno, in the downtown Fresno shootings.

Muhammad is scheduled to be sentenced May 22.