SALEM (CBS/AP) — The jury was released Monday afternoon after more than three hours of deliberations in the trial of Philip Chism, who is charged with raping and killing Danvers High School teacher Colleen Ritzer in October 2013.
Earlier in the day during closing arguments, prosecutor Kate MacDougall said Chism “knew right from wrong and could choose right from wrong,” when he strangled Ritzer and stabbed her with a box cutter in a school bathroom.
But Chism’s attorney Denise Regan said the then-14-year-old was in “the throes of mental illness” when he killed Ritzer, shortly after he moved to Massachusetts from Clarksville, Tennessee.
Chism’s lawyers admitted he killed Ritzer, but said he is severely mentally ill and was in the midst of a psychotic episode the day she was killed, pointing to testimony from three psychiatrists to argue that Chism suffered a psychotic break.
“When Philip Chism followed Miss Ritzer into that bathroom, he was not himself. He was totally and absolutely responding to the terrible command of the hallucinations in his head,” Regan said.
Prosecutors painted a different picture.
MacDougall graphically detailed the rape and murder. Ritzer was “stripped, battered, brutalized and violated,” the prosecutor said.
She claimed Chism was faking the extent of his mental illness, and that the gloves and extra bags he brought to school on the day of the murder show that he was sane.
MacDougall replayed chilling video from surveillance cameras inside the high school that showed Chism following Ritzer into the bathroom, wearing a hood and putting on gloves.
“Ladies and gentlemen, those videos alone show deliberate premeditation,” said MacDougall.
Ritzer’s body was later found in woods near the school. MacDougall argued that Ritzer was not killed in the bathroom, but later in the woods where her body was found.
“I am not going to stand here and tell you there is nothing wrong with Philip Chism. How could I?” MacDougall said.
But she also said Chism knew right from wrong.
“Doing something so awful does not make you crazy,” she said.
Chism, now 16, is being tried as an adult. He’s charged with first degree murder, two counts of aggravated rape, and armed robbery.
The jury of eight men and four women began deliberations after getting their instructions from Judge David Lowy.
If Chism is found not guilty by reason of insanity, he would be sent to a psychiatric treatment facility, where he could potentially be released in the future.
Deliberations continue Tuesday at 9:00 a.m.
WBZ NewsRadio 1030’s Ben Parker reports
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