LBN’s Ryan Gaumont reports that a Massachusetts has convicted a young man of first degree murder, aggravated rape, and armed robbery (because he stole the victim’s credit cards). Sixteen-year-old Philip Chism was convicted on Tuesday of crimes he committed in 2013 when he was fourteen years old. The victim was Colleen Ritzer, a popular math teacher at Danvers High School, where Chism was a student.
The facts of the crime were not in question. During opening statements, defense lawyer Denise Regan acknowledged that Chism had committed the crimes. However, the defense argued that Chism could not be held criminally responsible because he suffered from a mental illness at the time the crimes were committed. A doctor who testified for the defense told the jury that Chism “heard voices in his head” and was probably afflicted with early-onset schizophrenia.
The prosecution rejected the mental illness defense. A neuropsychologist who testified for the state said that a battery of tests administered to Chism showed that he was feigning mental illness. Prosecutor Kate MacDougall argued that “doing something so awful does not make you crazy.” The jury rejected the mental illness defense.
Chism will be held in the Department of Youth Services until he turns 18. After he reaches adult status, he will face life sentences, but not life without parole. He cannot receive a life sentence without parole following decisions by the U.S. Supreme Court and the Supreme Judicial Court of Massachusetts. Adults convicted of first degree murder in Massachusetts automatically receive a sentence of life without parole. Massachusetts does not have a death penalty. Chism could receive parole in 15 to 25 years.
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