Monday, March 26, 2012
© Copyright 2014
Gwinnett Daily Post
LAWRENCEVILLE -- A jury has ruled that a Lawrenceville man accused of kicking to death an acquaintance four years ago is competent to stand trial on murder and related charges, an official said Monday.
After a competency trial last week, jurors returned a verdict that Flavio Pena is fit to be tried on counts of murder and aggravated assault, said Assistant District Attorney Teresa Klein.
Pena is charged in the November 2007 fatal beating of 22-year-old David Cruz. Authorities believe Pena kicked the victim to death during a drunken roadside brawl on Arnold Road near U.S. Highway 29, where Cruz's body was found in a ditch the next day.
The two men were acquainted, but authorities have given no indication what allegedly set Pena off.
The original competency proceedings were scheduled to be held last November, but were continued due to a death in a defense attorney's family.
On the eve of his murder trial in March 2009, a judge granted Pena's defense last-minute permission for a psychological evaluation, overruling an objection by the state. Some 25 witnesses were subpoenaed and ready to testify in that trial, prosecutors said then.
When the case might reach a Gwinnett courtroom was unclear Monday, as the prosecutor assigned to it is out of the office for a week.
Pena has been held at the Gwinnett County Jail without bond since the day Cruz died. He's also being detained for federal immigration authorities, records show.
A third man involved in the brawl, Mario Palomo-Lopez, was charged with disorderly conduct but was cleared in the slaying.