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Napa State patient sentenced to 26 years in prison for 2002 attack

By MARSHA DORGAN, Register Staff Writer
Saturday, October 29, 2005 1:21 AM PDT

A Napa State Hospital patient was sentenced Friday to 26 years to life in prison for the murder of a fellow patient in 2002.

Anthony Gore, 41, was convicted on Sept. 8 of the murder of Dennis Wagner, 49, on May 3, 2002.

Gore's mother, Gertie Cooley of Vacaville, attended the sentencing. Afterwards, she told the Register she believed the case against her son and the long sentence were racially motivated. Gore is African-American.

"I believe my son's civil rights were violated," Cooley said. "He was a mental patient at the time. The jury disregarded the expert testimony of the doctor about my son's mental state at the time this happened."

At Friday's hearing, defense attorney Tim Pori asked the court to appoint him as the attorney of record for Gore, although long-time Napa defense attorney Merv Lernhart represented Gore during the trial.

Pori said he had been retained by the family to look into the case. Pori asked the court to consider a motion he filed for a new trial, claiming jury misconduct and that Gore was not given an adequate defense.

Gore told Napa County Superior Court Judge Francisca Tisher he believed he had a right to choose new counsel. "If he can find new evidence, there is no reason the sentencing can't wait. I'm not going anywhere," he said.

Napa County Deputy District Attorney Gary Van Camp, noting that the case had dragged on for three years, said Pori's request was meant only to delay sentencing.

"There are no grounds for a new trial. Next he will want transcripts and this thing could drag on for a long time. Everything has been litigated and decided by a jury. This case is three-and-a-half years old. There is no reason Mr. Gore should not be sentenced today," Van Camp said.

Judge Tisher denied Pori's request to represent Gore and delay the sentencing. Tisher said Gore had been represented by "one of the best, if not the best defense attorneys."

Initially, Gore pleaded not guilty by reason of insanity. After he was found guilty of murder, the same jury heard arguments from the defense and prosecution whether Gore was sane when he killed Wagner. On Sept. 16, the jury found Gore sane.

He will be sent to San Quentin State Prison where he will be evaluated. If prison staff determine that he is not able to cope with prison, he will be sent to a state mental facility where he will be treated as a sentenced prisoner.

On the day of the murder, at around 8 a.m., Wagner was found dead in his bed in the room he shared with Gore. Staff found blood on Gore's clothing and a cut on his hand.

The autopsy revealed Wagner was severally beaten and strangled.

During the trial, the prosecution argued Gore killed Wagner over an unpaid drug debt.

Both Gore and Wagner were admitted to the hospital on a ruling of not guilty by reason of insanity from prior incidents. Gore had been at the state hospital since January 2000 and Wagner had been there since December 1998.

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