Cases placed on hold for evaluation

John Richmeier
The Leavenworth Times

Court cases have been put on hold for a man awaiting resentencing for a 2008 murder in Leavenworth as he undergoes an evaluation.

Trials for Matthew Astorga that were scheduled for this week were canceled after a judge granted motions to have the defendant evaluated to determine if he is competent to stand trial, according to court records.

Two trials are pending for Astorga, 44. In one case, a trial is needed as part of a resentencing for a first-degree murder conviction.

Astorga was convicted of the charge in connection to the Dec. 26, 2008, shooting death of Ruben Rodriguez in Leavenworth.

Astorga previously was sentenced to what is known as the Hard 50, which meant he was required to serve at least 50 years in prison before being eligible for parole.

But Astorga has to be resentenced because the state's old Hard 50 law was struck down following a U.S. Supreme Court decision.

Following this decision, state lawmakers passed a new Hard 50 law. And prosecutors are once again seeking a Hard 50 sentence for Astorga under the new law.

The new Hard 50 sentencing process requires a jury.

A trial also is pending in a case in which Astorga is charged with battery on a county corrections officer. The crime is alleged to have occurred July 15, 2014, at the Leavenworth County Jail.

Motions requesting a competency evaluation were filed in both cases by attorneys who represent Astorga.

One of the attorneys, John Kurth, argued Astorga's mental health is deteriorating because he is being held in solitary confinement at the Leavenworth County Jail.

A judge has ordered the evaluation to be conducted through The Guidance Center, a community mental health organization, according to court records.