"Insanity defense may be used in Philip Chism murder trial" by Laura Crimaldi Globe Staff October 07, 2015
SALEM — The judge in the murder trial of Philip D. Chism explained the insanity defense to prospective jurors Wednesday, a move that suggests the defense will contend the teenager was not criminally responsible when he allegedly raped and killed his teacher inside Danvers High School in 2013.
During the opening of jury selection in Essex Superior Court in Salem, Judge David A. Lowy told potential jurors that they may be asked questions about their views on criminal responsibility and insanity.
Prosecutors say Chism, then 14, strangled his math teacher, Colleen Ritzer, in a school bathroom on the afternoon of Oct. 22, 2013, slit her throat, and left her with 16 stab wounds.
The freshman then, police contend, put her in a recycling bin and dragged it into the woods near the school, where her half-naked body was found early on Oct. 23, 2013.
Prosecutors say Chism left a folded, handwritten note near her that read: “I hate you all.”
He is also accused of sexually assaulting Ritzer, 24, and stealing her underwear and credit cards.
Chism, now 16, is charged as an adult with first-degree murder and is being tried as a youthful offender on two counts of aggravated rape and one count of armed robbery. He has pleaded not guilty.
Prosecutors say Chism confessed to the crimes, but a judge ruled that jurors won’t hear the statements police said he made.
On Wednesday, defense attorney Denise Regan introduced Chism to prospective jurors and referred to him as “the juvenile.” Chism did not speak.
If Chism’s lawyers mount a defense on the grounds that he was not criminally responsible, Lowy said the burden is on prosecutors to prove beyond a reasonable doubt that the teenager was not insane.
To do this, Lowy said, prosecutors must show that Chism did not suffer from a mental disease or defect. If he did have such an illness, it’s up to the prosecution to demonstrate that Chism still knew right from wrong and could conform his behavior to the law....
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