The murder trial of a 16-year-old Massachusetts high school student slammed to a halt Tuesday after the teenager refused to leave his holding cell, where he was mumbling and twitching, court officers said.
Philip Chism was lying on the floor, spouting gibberish, with his eyes closed, authorities said. Defense attorney Denise Regan said her client “was about to explode” and “didn’t want to hurt anyone," the Boston Globe reported.
Judge David Lowry decided to see for himself what condition Chism was in. After visiting the teen’s cell and returning to the bench, Lowry announced court was adjourned.
The defendant, who is accused of murdering and raping math teacher Collen Ritzer in 2013, is mentally ill, his lawyer claims.
The attorney says Chism acknowledges killing Ritzer in a girl’s bathroom at Danvers High School, but was psychologically unstable. Reagan plans to use an insanity defense, she told the court.
Tuesday marked the second day of testimony in Chism’s trial. He sat quietly through the morning session, when the victim’s mother, Peggie, testified about her eldest daughter.
Colleen, 24, was a stickler for being on time, her mother said. When she failed to return home and didn't return phone calls, Peggie reported her daughter missing.
At first, Peggie said on the stand Tuesday, she feared Colleen had been in a car crash.
Investigators were about to wheel in a blood-stained recycling bin, which had carried the teacher’s body on the day she was killed, when Chism refused to return to court.
He is alleged to have stuffed Colleen’s body into the rubbisn container, then pushed her into the nearby woods where Chism raped her with a tree branch before abandoning her remains there, authorities said.
The judge ordered a psychiatric evaluation of Chism and said court would resume Wednesday.
Jurors were dismissed Tuesday afternoon and told not to speculate on why the proceedings were halted.