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A CASE OF INSANITY


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INSANITY ON TRIAL

The story of Ralph Tortorici's struggles with mental illness, the fateful day he took a classroom full of students hostage, and his tortuous path through the criminal justice system. Included are links to trial testimony, documents, and both sides' closing arguments.
A SON AND A BROTHER

Ralph Tortortici's father and younger brother talk about what Ralph was like before the onset of schizophrenia and the pain of witnessing the trajectory of his mental illness. What started out as seemingly normal adolescent rebellion and aggression progressed into something much worse: truly paranoid and deeply troubled behavior that culminated in the hostage-taking attempt. Both Robert, Ralph's father, and Matthew, his brother, believe that Ralph was a sick person who deserved psychiatric treatment, not a prison sentence.
A WELL-DOCUMENTED HISTORY OF MENTAL ILLNESS

In 1992, Ralph Tortorici's paranoid delusions were already evident. In August, he went to the university health center complaining that a microchip had been implanted in his penis. Four months later, he contacted a New York state trooper and told him that the microchip would beep and give him messages and asked to have it removed. Here are excerpts from the court transcript in which defense attorney Peter Lynch questions the state trooper and mental health workers about the existence of Ralph Tortorici's delusions two years before the hostage-taking incident.
LETTER TO PROSECUTION FROM DR. LAWRENCE SIEGEL

Dr. Lawrence Siegel was the only psychiatrist that the prosecution could persuade to meet Ralph Tortorici. After examining him, Seigel determined that Tortorici was suffering from such acute psychotic delusions that it was impossible to evaluate his state of mind at the time of the hostage-taking incident. Additionally, in this nine-page letter to prosecutor Cheryl Coleman, Siegel argues that -- despite the court's finding to the contrary -- Tortorici was not even mentally competent to stand trial and assist in his own defense.
THE DEFENSE'S SUMMATION

"You can't bury your head in the sand and ignore the medical realities of this case," defense attorney Peter Lynch told the jurors. "This case is simply a case of mental illness, a tragic event, both for the lives of Jason McEnaney and Ralph Tortorici."
THE PROSECUTION'S SUMMATION

"Jason McEnaney was not the victim of an unfortunate incident, he was not the victim of an industrial accident, and he was not the victim of an act of God," Assistant District Attorney Cheryl Coleman told the jurors. "He was a crime victim, he's a victim of an act of violence, he's the victim of an act of terrorism; an act that, despite Ralph Tortorici's mental illness, he's completely, morally and legally responsible for."
INTERVIEWS

With prosecutor Cheryl Coleman; defense attorney Peter Lynch; presiding Judge Larry Rosen; Chief Assistant District Attorney Larry Wiest; Dr. Lawrence Siegel; and juror Norm LaMarche.

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