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FRONTLINE
A CASE OF INSANITY

the defense's summation
Excerpts from the defense's summation, delivered by attorney Peter Lynch. "You can't bury your head in the sand and ignore the medical realities of this case," 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." (Editor's note: These excerpts from the court transcript have been slightly edited.)


Good morning. I would like to make a few comments about the evidence this morning, to try to put this case in proper context. What calls to mind when I initially reviewed this case in preparing my thoughts for today was a line of questioning by the prosecutor of [defense psychiatric witness] Zvi Klopott. Questions that appeared to be poking fun at the idea of a psychiatric analysis of the mental illness, paranoid schizophrenia. You may recall questions dealing with toilet training, potty training. Questions as if to say Dr. Klopott is really a joke because he considered [in an earlier case] the upbringing of a child on that child's behavior as an adult. In proper context, and I think when we go through the evidence today, it will simply and truly bear out that mental illness, paranoid schizophrenia, and the actions of an individual in carrying out the delusions within the parameters of that disease is no joke at all.

And I think the best evidence of that, ladies and gentlemen, is the unfortunate result of those actions, as you heard a very courageous young man, Jason McEnaney, come in and tell you the injuries that he has suffered. But for, ladies and gentlemen, the actions of a paranoid schizophrenic, but for the actions to carry out the delusions that he was suffering under, you never would have heard from Jason McEnaney, and this would not have happened to Jason McEnaney. So I submit, ladies and gentlemen, in context, when you're reviewing the medical evidence in this case and you're wondering is this a joke, or is this real world stuff, just remember Jason McEnaney is no joke. And neither is Ralph Tortorici's mental illness.

You have before you, when you get a chance to go upstairs, an abundance of medical records, evidence, documented evidence; not evidence developed by any strategy of counsel to come to trial in 1996, not evidence that was prepared in the course of litigation to convince you ladies and gentlemen of the correctness of the defense position; evidence that existed long, long ago. You heard Melissa Tortorici [Ralph's sister] and her dad, Robert, talk about Ralph, the years and years and years of Ralph's paranoia, his delusion as a young man in his teens, people following him, surveillance, bugs in the house, all that type of stuff.

You might recall Pat Ford and Dr. Ingrid Porter from SUNY, and you might recall the seriousness in which they both told you about the events of August 31st, 1992. Dr. Porter was certainly no kid. Dr. Porter and Pat were both pros, not easily fooled, not naive, very real and very, very much convinced that when Ralph walked in that day he was absolutely, positively convinced that he had a computer chip, a microchip implanted in his penis. And remember that when Dr. Porter and Pat Ford first met Ralph, this was three days after Ralph had been at the infirmary complaining of the same thing; in fact, on August 28th he went there and said "I demand an X-ray. You must find this foreign body." That's the lingo of the doctors. Foreign body in the person. They even went so far as to send him to St. Peter's Hospital on August 28th for an X-ray report that proved to be negative.

Now, if you think about it for a minute, I don't really think it would be reasonable for doctors to laugh it off and say this kid, you know, is just jazzing us around, send him over to St. Peter's Hospital and waste their time for a day and have an X-ray done. I don't think that would be a reasonable interpretation. I do not think professionals engage in those types of procedures willy-nilly. I think, ladies and gentlemen, that the fair inference to draw from it is that on August 28th they knew they had a problem, and they wanted to show Ralph Tortorici by the X-ray that it wasn't there, it wasn't real: perhaps in an attempt to ameliorate his concerns to say, "Hey, kid, this couldn't possibly be, here's the X-ray report."

But do you know what? It didn't happen, because three days later [he was] grabbing Pat Ford by the head and pulling her down saying, "Listen, listen to this." You heard her, you watched her, you saw her face. She goes rushing in to Dr. Porter and says, "You got to come out here, I got a real problem here." What do they do? They send him to Capital District Psychiatric Center. [The CDPC report reads]: "He believes that an X-ray was put in during reconstructive surgery for a hypospadias birth defect. Complaint: The patient is psychotic." Again, I'm only reading parts of it. When you get together and have an opportunity to sit down-- and you guys are absolutely able to read this-- read the whole thing. This record is not a manufactured product of counsel, it is very real. [He's diagnosed with a] delusional disorder and out he goes.

Anybody do anything about removing the chip, as far as Ralph was concerned? Nope. Anybody really believe him? Of course not. Anybody convince Ralph that it wasn't real? I don't think so.

You had the opportunity to listen to Trooper Drew McDonald. Drew McDonald, ladies and gentlemen, is certainly not any kind of a defense witness; he is a New York State trooper. He remembered very well meeting with Ralph back in December of 1992. And Ralph's complaints to him, "You have got to help me, this computer chip is in me. It's telling me to engage in sexual acts on a little girl. You have got to help me, you have got to take it out." What does Trooper McDonald do? Well, first of all, he arrests him under the Mental Health Law because he thinks he's nuts. Does Trooper McDonald arrest him for cocaine? I don't think so. Not in the record. And he certainly didn't say it. Did he see any symptoms of cocaine? No. Trooper McDonald brings him down to CDPC. And it's in evidence, and there's a very good typed out history about what occurred. And for a change you can actually read the medical records because it's typed. And there's a quote in this record that I would like to bring to your attention, it's actually typed up in quotes. I think the reasonable inference would be that whatever individual, whatever medical individual or employee of CDPC who typed this up, the quotes would indicate, I think a fair inference, [that] this was a statement of Ralph's: "Do I have to do something drastic?" December 18th, 1992. Two years before the SUNY incident. Something drastic. Again, a complaint, "Remove this chip." They keep him in for a few days and out he goes. Is he convinced he's been healed? Is he convinced that the problem is all gone? Not on any reasonable review of the evidence.

You heard [Ralph's sister] Melissa talk about the fact that she had lived with Ralph for quite a bit, they had a troubled family life. And Melissa, I think, indicated to you that she was very close with Ralph. He could function with her family on a day-to-day basis. He was loving to her and her children; but it always would come back to talking about the conspiracy, them, the government in any form, whether it be police, congressmen, presidents, SUNY officials. She told you that in the weeks before this incident Ralph was going down big time, he was very much regressing. She was fearful. She went to him. And she couldn't remember if it was the night before or two nights before, but she sure did remember that she went down there to ask him, plead with him to get help. He had a smirk on his face and he said "Don't worry, it will be over soon."

Now, did she see him use cocaine? She said she saw him once. Did she suspect it? You bet. And as a matter of fact, ladies and gentlemen, she had good reason to do that, because in evidence is the February 28th, 1994 [medical report that] shows that Ralph on that particular day had an episode and he was in fact using cocaine and he was in fact diagnosed as having cocaine intoxication.

You're asking yourself, was he really mentally ill, or was he under cocaine on December 14th, 1994? Keep in mind that back in 1992 [there were] several documented episodes of delusional disorders, with no presence of cocaine. In 1995, July of 1995, his social worker at the jail in the treatment plan [finds that] he's still delusional, he's still talking about the chip. And we even know from the evidence, ladies and gentlemen, that even as much as last week Ralph was actively psychotic.

Cocaine is a red herring in this case. Cocaine is the People's attempt to lead you away from the foundational problem of the case. It is the People's position in this case that, "Hey, but for cocaine we wouldn't even be here today because cocaine made Ralph do everythinq and he's really not sick? He's really not mentally ill, he's a drug addict. And drugs are inexcusable and you're responsible if you use drugs. You use drugs, you do something, you're responsible. And he's not mentally ill." If that were true, if that were really true in this case, how will you account, ladies and gentlemen, how will you account for the fact of this long history of delusion and belief in the computer chip and the conspiracy, and so on and so forth, years before and continuing until today? How do you account for that?

What the prosecution is not accounting for is that the evidence in this case really shows that we don't have an individual, as Jay Thalmann told you, this is not a case where a person took cocaine to become and act as if he were mentally ill; this is a mentally ill individual who has a history of cocaine use. But if you are trying to find out on the day in question the extent of the cocaine, we really don't know. The screening test doesn't tell you. It says it's in his system. The young trooper that was on the stand yesterday afternoon said, well, [the test could detect cocaine use for] three to five hours [after it was ingested.] Dr. Klopott said the screening test is actually effective to show cocaine use up to three days before.

The most important thing that I would ask you to consider when you're dealing with the diagnosis of chronic paranoid schizophrenia-- and Thalmann and Klopott both told you this-- having that illness is not a mental defect that renders someone incapable of thinking or doing or acting, it is not a defect which would impair one's intelligence or ability to function. It is a disease, it is an illness which, when one is acting under the delusion of that disease, takes over. Everything that Ralph did was intelligent; but when he did it within the context of his delusion, when he engaged in this tactical planning, when he thought that he would be ending the experiment by exposing the government, that, ladies and gentlemen, is not knowing what you're doing.

How do you objectively determine what was going on, if you will, inside Ralph Tortorici's mind on the day in question? How do you actually carry out that task? You're the finders of fact, not me; not the Judge and not the DA. You people are. How do you do it? You do it by looking at the evidence.

There's a couple of pieces of evidence I would ask you to pay attention to. Zvi Klopott called this a suicide note. You can read it for yourself. I think that's a pretty fair interpretation. "Please understand that my actions are necessary to try to stop this"-- I can't read the next word-- "experimenting upon my life!" This is the note that was found in Ralph's possessions. And at the end it says, "However, if the government decides to pay, distribute the money amongst the family." He was going to end the experiment, he was going after the government and he was going to make them pay. That's the note before the incident.

Doug Mayville from the Albany Police arrives at the scene and he's got a video camera. And I put this tape into evidence; the defense took the police videotape and put it into evidence. This didn't go into evidence on the People's case. Why not? I will tell you why not. I played one part of the tape they were bringing Ralph down the steps of the lecture center, with officers on either side of him and you hear him say, "You know what this is. This is a medical experiment." That's the first thing he says on tape.

There were a couple of what I consider red herrings in this case that the prosecution has thrown forth. For example, the prosecution would have you believe from their case that Ralph watches a TV show and the next day he acts it out. You might recall that some of the kids testified that during this siege Ralph is talking about the microchips in his person. They are like, "oh, my God, we just watched a show like this on MTV called Dead at 21 and the kid had microchips in him." So Ralph, according to the prosecution's theory, saw that show and now is making it up.

That's absolutely ludicrous when you consider back in '92 he had the same complaint, when you consider from Melissa and her dad he's been complaining like this for years and years and years. By the way, just one absolutely very simple little fact: Ralph is holed up there in the cellar there, he doesn't even have cable TV. This doesn't mean he never watched it, but he certainly didn't watch it the night before. It's a red herring. It's meant to divert you from the real evidence in this case.

What matters, ladies and gentlemen, is what was going on in Ralph's mind. The first thing he does, he gets in the room and he starts sending people out to go get attention, get attention of the world to him. Is that consistent with the delusion? Is that consistent with his attempt to expose the experiment? Absolutely.

The graduation issue. Ralph was really dropping the ball in the spring and summer of '94, the last two semesters that there were grades. He got A's and B's all throughout his career, and in the spring of '94 took two psychology courses and dropped out. In the summer of '94 he got a D plus and a D. You know, he's just not focusing, he's going down. His dad was with him that summer for about a week. And what did he tell you? All Ralph talked about was this conspiracy. All he talked about. Is his dad lying? He's interested. He's certainly interested in the welfare of his son. And I don't think it would be unreasonable for people to question, well, you know, it is his dad and he probably would come in here and say just about anything to protect his son, and so would his sister. But when you think about their testimony, isn't true that their testimony is 100 percent compatible with all the medical records and all the medical witnesses that you heard from? The only medical witnesses.

I would just ask you when the Judge charges you on the law, bear in mind all the instructions he gives you. You all said you would when the case started. But I would ask you to keep in mind that the evidence must be viewed as a whole. You can't bury your head in the sand and ignore the medical realities of this case. There was an unfortunate question in this trial-- and, again, questions are not evidence-- but there was a very unfortunate question by the prosecutor of this case about the Oklahoma City bombing. I think that you all know this is not that case. And I would hope and trust that you would not allow that type of question and those questions dealing with terrorism prejudice your objective review of this case. This case is simply a case of mental illness, a tragic event, both for the lives of Jason McEnaney and Ralph Tortorici.

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