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Trial begins for Tucson man representing self in wife's killing
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Trial begins for Tucson man representing self in wife's killing

King Yates addresses the jury during his opening arguments in Pima County Superior Court on February 4, 2020. Yates is on trial for count one first-degree murder, a class one felony in the killing of his wife, Cassandra Yates. Yates is representing himself in court.

A Tucson man serving as his own lawyer in the murder trial for his wife's 2016 shooting death told a jury Monday there's no physical evidence linking him to the crime and that police conspired against him.

King Yates, 25, said in opening statements in his first-degree murder trial in Pima County Superior Court that Cassandra Yates might have been killed during a home invasion at their neighbor's apartment.

The couple had gone to the neighbor's apartment that day intending to smoke marijuana together, the prosecutor told jurors later.

In the nearly 3½ years since his wife's killing, Yates has fired two attorneys, and his competency has been called into question several times.

He's also facing a second murder charge in the April 2017 beating and strangulation death of his cellmate at the Pima County jail.

Branden Roth was awaiting sentencing in a theft case when he was found dead in the cell he shared with Yates.

No date has been set for that trial.

'Cold and calculated. Two words to describe how King Yates murdered his wife,' Deputy Pima County Attorney Tracy Miller said at the start of her opening statement.

The neighbor had been on the phone for several minutes when she came out of her bedroom after hearing a pop, finding Cassandra Yates in a pool of blood, Miller said.

After she asked Yates what he did, he replied, 'Do you know how many

times she tried to kill me?'

The neighbor tried to kick Yates out, but he insisted on cleaning up first and deleting information from his wife's phone from when he'd used it earlier in the evening, Miller said.

Eventually, Yates put on a camouflage jacket and a face mask and left, Miller said. The gun and mask were with Yates when he was arrested the next day inside an abandoned townhouse.

Attorney Bobbi Berry, who is working as an advisor to Yates, sat quietly behind him in the courtroom, ready to take over should self-representation proves to be too difficult.

Earlier this month, Berry submitted a memo to the court saying she did not believe Yates was competent to represent himself or even assist in his own defense, and that he had stopped taking the antipsychotic medication prescribed to him by jail doctors.

Yates' trial is expected to continue through the week. It's unclear if he will testify.

Contact reporter Caitlin Schmidt at cschmidt@tucson.com or 573-4191. Twitter: @caitlincschmidt

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