Related topics

Alleged Shooter to Argue Insanity

April 2, 2002

%mlink(STRY:; PHOTO:BX102-040102; AUDIO:034%)

CAMBRIDGE, Mass. (AP) _ Jury selection began Monday in the murder trial of a man accused of killing seven co-workers as revenge for his company’s plan to take some of his wages to pay taxes he owed the IRS.

Lawyers for Michael ``Mucko″ McDermott plan to argue that he was legally insane and suffering from schizophrenia when he killed seven people at the offices of Edgewater Technology on Dec. 26, 2000.

Prosecutors, however, say the software engineer knew exactly what he was doing.

They will present evidence that he planned the shootings as revenge and that he took four guns and a stockpile of ammunition to work on the day of the shooting.

Twelve regular jurors and four alternates will be selected, but none were chosen Monday. Selection was expected to take several days.

When police responded to the shooting, they found McDermott sitting motionless in a chair, an AK 47-style semiautomatic rifle beside one foot, a 12-gauge shotgun beside the other.

The only thing he said when officers arrested him was ``I don’t speak German.″

McDermott’s lawyer, Kevin Reddington, plans to call three psychiatrists who will testify that McDermott has schizophrenia, a severe mental disorder characterized by delusions and hallucinations. He will ask the jury to find McDermott innocent by reason of insanity, arguing that his mental illness made him unable to appreciate the wrongfulness of his conduct.

The use of an insanity defense is seen by some lawyers as a defense of last resort because, in most cases, it fails. They point to the case of Andrea Yates, the Texas woman convicted of murder March 12 in the drownings of her five children.

``If anyone was insane _ killing her own children _ she was, but the jury didn’t even buy that,″ said Boston defense lawyer Stephen Hrones.

Boston attorney Norman Zalkind used an insanity defense for a man who killed his wife in 1995 after she complained that he burned their dinner. Richard beat his wife to death with a rock, then impaled her heart and lungs on a stick because he believed she was an alien planning to kill him, Zalkind said.

``He was very, very crazy _ as insane as you can get _ but after five days, the jury still came back and said guilty,″ Zalkind said.

If the jury were to find McDermott innocent by reason of insanity, he could be ordered committed to a state mental hospital, with annual evaluations to determine if he should remained committed. If convicted of murder, he faces life in prison without possibility of parole.

Attorney Joseph Balliro, who used an insanity defense unsuccessfully last year in the murder trial of Dr. Richard Sharpe, a dermatologist convicted of killing his wife, said the biggest hurdle defense attorneys face is jurors’ fears that the defendant will eventually be released from a hospital.

``When they look at him and listen to what he has admitted doing _ this horrible crime _ they are concerned about whether or not some psychiatrist says in a year or two that he’s no longer a danger to the community and he’ll get released,″ Balliro said.

Psychiatrists say the public has become more understanding about schizophrenia and other mental illnesses, thanks in part to films such as the Oscar-winning ``A Beautiful Mind,″ the story of a mathematician who struggled with schizophrenia before winning the Nobel prize for economics.

Whether that new understanding will affect jurors in criminal cases is an open question, said Dr. Richard Warner, a Boulder, Colo.-based psychiatrist who works with police, judges, businesses and community groups.

``That (movie) was one strike against stigma, but it may be quite a long process. It’s quite hard to change attitudes,″ he said.

Update hourly