Man Convicted of Murdering Six in Train Massacre
MINEOLA, N.Y. (AP) _ Colin Ferguson was convicted Friday of murdering six passengers and wounding 19 others on a commuter train, ending a bizarre trial in which he refused an insanity plea and defended himself.
The jury deliberated for 10 hours before returning its verdict at about 9:20 p.m. in a courtroom packed with survivors of the attack and families of the slain victims.
In addition to the murder counts, Ferguson was convicted of 22 counts of attempted murder, weapons possession and reckless endangerment. However, he was acquitted of 25 counts of civil rights violations, charging he targeted victims because of their race.
Even Ferguson anticipated the guilty verdict; only the length of the deliberations surprised him, said his legal adviser, Alton Rose.
``Guilty,″ said jury foreman Delton Dove when asked about the first murder count. He repeated it five times, once for each of the other victims shot to death aboard the 5:33 p.m. train on Dec. 7, 1993, just outside New York City. Nineteen others were wounded.
A small smattering of applause greeted the first guilty verdict, and the courtroom erupted in cheers when a handcuffed Ferguson was led out by court officers.
``It’s been a long 14 months, but justice has been done,″ said Carolyn McCarthy, whose husband was killed and her son crippled in Ferguson’s rampage on the Long Island Railroad train.
Ferguson stood mute and stared at jurors as the verdict was read. When the jury was polled again, he sat slumped in his chair. Dove sat in the jury box, crying and shaking after the verdict.
Ferguson, who faces life in prison, asked the judge to set the verdict aside. Judge Donald Belfi told him he could address the issue at his March 20 sentencing.
Ferguson used his closing argument Thursday to accuse survivors of conspiring with police to implicate him. Victims and relatives were so incensed they walked out of court.
The evidence against Ferguson appeared overwhelming. In addition to his handwritten notes expressing hatred of whites and Asians, all but two of the 19 survivors testified against him.
Twelve identified him as the gunman. And the commuters who said they subdued and disarmed Ferguson also took the witness stand.
Under cross-examination, the witnesses answered Ferguson’s questions by directly implicating him. One victim, Robert Giugliano, so unnerved Ferguson with his hard stare that the defendant asked for a 15-minute recess.
The first person shot on the train, Maryanne Phillips, coolly told Ferguson: ``I saw you shoot me″ _ a surreal scene that was repeated over and over in the Long Island courtroom.
The parade of victims included Kevin McCarthy, whose father died in his lap; Lisa Combatti, who was seven months pregnant when shot; and war veteran Thomas McDermott, who said the carnage was worse than anything he’d seen in Vietnam.
All of them cited a sense of closure achieved by facing Ferguson.
After the verdict, they said little about the defendant, concentrating instead on gun control.
``Until 10 minutes ago (Ferguson) would have been eligible to buy that same gun, to kill the same six wonderful people,″ said McDermott, who was shot in the shoulder.
Mrs. McCarthy said she and the relatives of other victims would continue campaigning against guns.
``We are going to take it upon ourselves to do everything possible so other people in this country won’t have to go through this,″ she said.
Ferguson, a 37-year-old Jamaican immigrant, insisted he was innocent. Yes, Ferguson said, he was riding on the train. But he fell asleep, and a white man stole his automatic weapon and opened fire, he said.
His defense consisted of a single witness: a Nassau County homicide detective already called by the prosecution. And he never called his star witness: himself.
The opening statements were the first sign of the strange days ahead in the three-week trial. Ferguson, referring to himself in the third person, gave a rambling statement that claimed he was arrested because of his race.
Ferguson is black; all but one of his victims were white or Asian.
He later delivered this non-sequitur in explaining why he faced a 93-count indictment: ``If it had been 1925, it would have been a 25-count indictment.″
Despite the 93 counts, in many cases jurors had to choose between alternate counts, so it was impossible for Ferguson to be convicted on all counts.
Ferguson also tried to subpoena President Clinton and ex-Gov. Mario Cuomo, and announced in court there was a conspiracy against him that was linked to the prison slaying of Jeffrey Dahmer.
However bizarre, his arguments often were delivered in a polished, calm, articulate manner, and showed that he had studied the basics of trial procedure.
Ferguson represented himself over the advice of celebrated defense lawyer William Kunstler, who hoped to raise an insanity defense based on ``black rage.″
But Ferguson dumped Kunstler and was found mentally fit for trial. The jury did not have the option of finding Ferguson insane because it was not raised as a defense.
He was also interviewed on CNN’s ``Larry King Live,″ then claimed he was forced to appear on the show by his legal aide. The sideshow atmosphere made Ferguson the second most-wanted man on Court TV, right behind O.J. Simpson.