David Tarloff facing murder charges of NYC therapist Kathryn Faughey.
NEW YORK (AP) - He had a plan and fled after it turned deadly, but a mental patient who killed a psychologist with a meat cleaver had at best a superficial understanding that he was doing wrong, his lawyer said Tuesday.
"There is nothing about this case that is rational or makes any sense," attorney Bryan Konoski told jurors in a closing argument in a trial that centers on a schizophrenic killer's state of mind.
David Tarloff doesn't deny killing therapist Kathryn Faughey in February 2008 in a gruesome slashing in her Manhattan office as he tried to carry out a weird robbery plot targeting her officemate. He's pursuing an insanity defense, which means jurors must decide whether he understood the consequences of his actions enough to be held criminally responsible.
Prosecutors haven't yet given their summation, but they have previously said Tarloff knew what he was doing and should be convicted.
About a dozen of Faughey's relatives lined rows of courtroom seats as the case, delayed for years because of Tarloff's psychiatric problems, neared its end. Tarloff, who has a history of courtroom outbursts, shifted in his seat and rubbed his face with his hands but listened quietly.
Tarloff, 45, has been in and out of psychiatric hospitals for more than two decades. Years of medical reports trace out his delusional world: He has said he hears voices, believes he's the Messiah, talks to God and has seen God's eye in tables and floors.
Convinced that his mother was suffering in a nursing home, Tarloff hatched what he saw as a scheme to save her.
He decided he would find a psychiatrist who'd had him committed in 1991, hold up the doctor for his ATM code, withdraw $40,000 or more, grab his mother out of the home and run off with her to Hawaii, he told authorities.
He had never met Faughey, 56, who shared an office with the psychiatrist he targeted, Dr. Kent Shinbach. Faughey encountered Tarloff first and confronted him. He slashed her 15 times, later telling authorities he thought she was evil and believed she'd attack him. Shinbach came to her aid and was seriously injured.
Tarloff prepared for his plan, calling a hospital to find out where Shinbach's private office was, buying knives and a meat-pounding mallet and arriving with a suitcase of adult diapers and clothes for his mother. He fled afterward; police ultimately found him by matching fingerprints from the crime scene to prints taken from him a few weeks earlier, when he was arrested on charges of punching a security guard at a hospital where his mother was being treated.
Prosecutors say Tarloff's preparations and escape show he was cognizant that he was doing wrong and breaking the law.
Faughey was killed because she was "someone who stood in the path that (Tarloff) wanted to take," Manhattan Assistant District Attorney Evan Krutoy said in an opening statement last month.
But defense lawyers say the strange plan shows how disconnected Tarloff was from reality, and his conviction that God approved it illustrates the depths of his delusions.
"He truly believes he's the son of God, God sanctioned his conduct, and he acted on it," Konoski said. "He had, at best, surface capacity to realize that what he was doing was wrong."
If convicted, Tarloff could be sentenced to life in prison. If his defense succeeds, he will be acquitted but held in a mental hospital until - if ever - doctors and a judge decided he was well enough to go free.
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