Defendant’s degree of psychosis argued at Times Square trial

Jun 15, 2022, 2:13 AM | Updated: 3:13 pm

NEW YORK (AP) — A man accused of using his car to mow down people in Times Square made a deliberate choice to leave a path of death and destruction there in the spring of 2017, a prosecutor said Wednesday in closing arguments at a New York City trial that’s put an insanity defense to the test.

An attorney for Richard Rojas countered by calling his client a “lunatic” who was so mentally ill, it was impossible for him to know what he was doing that day.

Rojas, 31, is fighting murder, assault and other charges in an attack that killed a teen girl from Michigan, injured more than 20 other people and spread panic at the popular tourist destination. If a jury finds him guilty, it must also decide whether or not he “lacked responsibility by reason of mental disease or defect.”

The trial, which began in state court in Manhattan early last month, has featured testimony from victims who suffered grisly injuries from what prosecutors labeled “a horrific, depraved act.” On the defense side, family members testified how Rojas’ mental health took a steep dive after he was kicked out of the Navy in 2014.

In his closing, prosecutor Alfred Peterson conceded that Rojas was having a psychotic episode, including hearing voices, at the time of the rampage. But Peterson argued Rojas showed he wasn’t entirely detached from reality by maneuvering his vehicle onto the sidewalk and driving with precision for three blocks until he crashed.

“The defendant made a decision that day,” the prosecutor said. “He made a choice. … He went to the ‘crossroads of the world,’ a high profile place where everyone knows there’s lots and lots of people.”

Once there, he was “in full control of his car,” he added.

Defense Attorney Enrico DeMarco told jurors that “there should be no doubt” that his client met the legal standard for an insanity finding. The evidence, the lawyer said, showed Rojas “lacked a substantial capacity to know what he was doing was wrong” because of an underlying illness — schizophrenia, as diagnosed by a defense psychiatrist.

DeMarco played a videotape in the courtroom of Rojas jumping out of his car after crashing it into a sidewalk stanchion. Rojas could be heard yelling, “What happened? … Oh my God, what happened?” as he was being subdued, and be seen banging his head on the ground.

Rojas “was a lunatic,” the attorney said. “He lost his mind.”

DeMarco challenged police accounts Rojas told a traffic agent in the aftermath, “I wanted to kill them all. Just kill me too,” calling it a fabrication meant to give some semblance of a motive to a senseless act.

There will be a break in the trial until Tuesday, when deliberations are expected to begin.

Copyright © The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

AP

Associated Press

After West Virginia opioid verdict, another case postponed

CHARLESTON, W.Va. (AP) — A trial in a lawsuit accusing three major U.S. drug distributors of causing a health crisis throughout West Virginia was postponed Tuesday, a day after the companies prevailed in another case in the state. Attorneys who represented Cabell County and the city of Huntington on the losing end of a verdict […]
1 day ago
Associated Press

Biden awards Medal of Honor to 4 for Vietnam heroism

WASHINGTON (AP) — President Joe Biden on Tuesday bestowed the nation’s highest military honor to four Army soldiers for heroism that he said rose above and beyond the call of duty during the Vietnam War. Biden presented the Medal of Honor to Staff Sgt. Edward N. Kaneshiro, Spc. Five Dwight W. Birdwell, Spc. Five Dennis […]
1 day ago
Associated Press

Israel’s Lapid meets Macron in Paris on first trip as PM

PARIS (AP) — Israeli caretaker Prime Minister Yair Lapid on Tuesday used his first trip abroad since taking office to urge world powers to step up pressure on Iran over its nuclear activities, calling the Islamic republic a threat to regional stability. Lapid met in Paris on Tuesday with French President Emmanuel Macron, who called […]
1 day ago
Associated Press

Germany’s CureVac files suit against vaccine rival BioNTech

BERLIN (AP) — German biotech company CureVac said Tuesday it has filed a patent infringement lawsuit against rival BioNTech for work that it says contributed to the development of the BioNTech-Pfizer coronavirus vaccine. BioNTech said its work is original and it would “vigorously” contest the claim. CureVac, which last year reported disappointing results from late-stage […]
1 day ago
Associated Press

Judge holds hearing on challenge of Mississippi abortion law

JACKSON, Miss. (AP) — A judge held a hearing Tuesday but didn’t say how she would decide a lawsuit filed by Mississippi’s only abortion clinic, which is trying to remain open by blocking a law that would ban most abortions in the state. The law — which state lawmakers passed before the U.S. Supreme Court […]
1 day ago
Associated Press

Judge holds hearing on challenge of Mississippi abortion law

JACKSON, Miss. (AP) — A judge held a hearing Tuesday but didn’t say how she would decide a lawsuit filed by Mississippi’s only abortion clinic, which is trying to remain open by blocking a law that would ban most abortions in the state. The law — which state lawmakers passed before the U.S. Supreme Court […]
1 day ago

Sponsored Articles

Swedish Cyberknife 900x506...

June is Men’s Health Month: Here’s Why It’s Important To Speak About Your Health

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, men in the United States, on average, die five years earlier than women.
...

Anacortes – A Must Visit Summertime Destination

While Anacortes is certainly on the way to the San Juan Islands (SJI), it is not just a destination to get to the ferry… Anacortes is a destination in and of itself!
...

Ready for your 2022 Alaskan Adventure with Celebrity Cruises?

Celebrity Cruises SPONSORED — A round-trip Alaska cruise from Seattle is an amazing treat for you and a loved one. Not only are you able to see and explore some of the most incredible and visually appealing natural sights on the planet, but you’re also able to relax and re-energize while aboard a luxury cruise […]
...

Compassion International Is Determined to ‘Fill’ a Unique Type of Football ‘Stadium’

Compassion International SPONSORED — During this fall’s football season—and as the pandemic continues to impact the entire globe—one organization has been urging caring individuals to help it “fill” a unique type of “stadium” in order to make a lasting difference in the lives of many. Compassion International’s distinctive Fill the Stadium (FtS, fillthestadium.com) initiative provides […]
...

What are the Strongest, Greenest, Best Windows?

Lake Washington Windows & Doors SPONSORED — Fiberglass windows are an excellent choice for window replacement due to their fundamental strength and durability. There is no other type of window that lasts as long as fiberglass; so why go with anything else? Fiberglass windows are 8x stronger than vinyl, lower maintenance than wood, more thermally […]
...

COVID Vaccine is a Game-Changer for Keeping our Kids Healthy

Snohomish Health District SPONSORED — Cheers to the parents and guardians who keep their kids safe and healthy. The dad who cooks a meal with something green in it, even though he’s tired and drive-thru burgers were tempting. The mom who calms down the little one who loudly and resolutely does NOT want to brush […]
Defendant’s degree of psychosis argued at Times Square trial