The defense presented its case Thursday at the trial of a South Florida teen accused of almost beating another teenager to death.
Lawyers for 17-year-old Wayne Treacy, who is charged as an adult with attempted murder in the March 17, 2010 attack on Josie Ratley, explained their insanity claim when the trial resumed.
They claim Treacy suffered from post traumatic stress disorder and was not in control of what he was doing at the time of the attack.
Psychiatrist Dr. Alexander Neumeister, one of the world's foremost experts on post-traumatic stress disorder, testified for much of the day Thursday. He gave the jury a tutorial on the brain and on which parts may be affected by PTSD.
He also explained what's called a "dissociative episode," in which subjects can appear normal on the outside, but have no recollection of their actions when they are in that state. Neumeister said the text message from Ratley about Treacy's dead brother triggered his dissociative state.
Police said Treacy sought out Ratley, who was 15 at the time, after she sent him text messages about his older brother, Michael, who had recently committed suicide. Prosecutors said he punched, kicked and stomped her head with steel-toed construction boots at a bus stop outside Deerfield Beach Middle School.
"At the time of the attack on the girl, Wayne had severe PTSD, major depression, and he was in the midst of a dissociative episode," said Neumeister, who examined Treacy twice, putting him through a battery of psychiatric exams.
Neumeister said he believed that Treacy did not have control of his actions when he attacked Ratley.
She suffered severe brain damage in the attack and spent over 40 days at the pediatric intensive care unit at Broward General Medical Center. Ratley will not testify during the trial.
"This was not just one text message, this was a game-changer, sent to the wrong person at the wrong time. It triggered a dissociative state directly linked to his PTSD," Neumeister said.
It is the first time Neumeister, of NYU, has ever testified in a trial – which the defense expert is doing for free. He said he decided to get involved only because the circumstances of this case are so unique. It is highly unusual to see a genuine instance of PTSD setting off a dissociative episode in which a teenager commits a crime like the one Treacy is charged with, Neumeister said.
On Wednesday, Treacy's mother, Donna Powers, testified about the day she and her son found Michael hanging from a tree. She said Michael committed suicide on the day they planned to go to the beach for Treacy's birthday.
"I went to go to the officer and then I realized Michael was hanging in the tree," she told the court. "And then I fell into Wayne's arms and there was screaming. I went to call my husband, Wayne was yelling, 'Cut my brother down, cut my brother down.'"
Treacy has been held without bond since the attack. He faces up to 50 years behind bars if convicted.