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Keller @ Large: Fujita Insanity Defense Likely Won’t Work

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Nate Fujita in court February 13, 2013.

Nate Fujita in court February 13, 2013.

WBZ-TV's Jon Keller Jon Keller
Jon Keller is WBZ-TV News' Political Analyst, and his "Keller A...
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BOSTON (CBS) – As if the family and friends of Lauren Astley haven’t suffered enough since her brutal murder in July, 2011, they must now endure a trial in which the defense lawyer for her accused murderer, Nathaniel Fujita, plans to mount an insanity defense.

Listen to Jon’s commentary:

We’ll see what evidence unfolds in court, but chances are this ploy won’t work. Insanity defenses rarely do.

Juries are notoriously reluctant to let a killer dodge life in prison. In the handful of local cases where they have done so, the defendants were people with long, documented histories of severe mental illness.

In other cases where the defendants had chronic mental problems, juries have been slightly more likely to agree to a second-degree murder plea.

In his opening statement Wednesday, Fujita’s lawyer, William Sullivan, didn’t appear to argue that his client had pre-existing problems when his breakup with Lauren apparently left him depressed and withdrawn. After persuading her to meet him on the night of the murder, his lawyer claimed Fujita suddenly suffered a brief psychotic episode.

“What you will hear is that the defendant was not able to control himself or really understand what it was that he was doing,’’ he told the court.

This sounds more like a DUI defense than an argument for hospitalization over prison for a murderer.

We all have regrettable impulses from time to time, sometimes even violent ones. But the social fabric relies on our ability to control them and society’s willingness to levy severe punishment on those who don’t.

Having your teenage heart broken is not a license to kill.

So many of the news stories we wind up talking about here are the result of people simply failing to live up to their basic social responsibilities – to not lie, not steal, not kill when the spirit moves you.

If Fujita was in the long-term grip of mental disorders that overwhelmed him, that’s one thing. But his lawyer has a very high mountain to climb to prove it.

And that is as it should be.

You can listen to Keller At Large on WBZ News Radio every weekday at 7:55 a.m. You can also watch Jon on WBZ-TV News.

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