(MyFoxBoston.com) – A vicious cold blooded killer or a confused and disoriented teen, A jury will be faced with that question when Philip Chism stands trial.
Chism charged with the October 2013 murder of beloved Danvers High School math teacher Colleen Ritzer. His lawyers are expected to use the insanity defense. Chism was a 14-year-old when the murder occurred and he’s being tried as an adult.
“Mental health cases are very difficult to win,” said FOX25 legal analyst Brad Bailey.
Bailey, a Boston Criminal Defense Lawyer, has prosecuted and defended dozens of accused murders. He said the insanity defense is typically a last resort because the threshold is so high to be successful. Chism’s lawyers must prove that Chism was unable to distinguish right from wrong because of a mental disease or defect.
Authorities said Ritzer was raped in a school bathroom and her throat was slit. Her body was found in woods near the school. A student who was in Ritzer’s class with Chism said she overheard Ritzer asking Chism to stay after school after she saw him drawing instead of taking notes in class.
“Essentially the defense will concede that their client committed the acts they’re just not saying that he’s criminally responsible and shouldn’t be held criminally responsible,” said Bailey.
“I try my best to kind of block it out obviously it’s easier said than done,” said Jennifer Berger, one of Ritzer’s best friends.
Berger grew up with Ritzer in Andover. She is one of many involved in keeping Ritzer’s memory alive with tribute pages, scholarships, fundraisers and memorials. She said Ritzer deserves to be remembered for the way she lived, not the way she died.
“She didn’t have to fake being nice – she just was a nice person and it came easily to her,” said Berger.
Jury selection is scheduled to begin Wednesday. Due to the graphic and high profile nature of the case it will likely be several days before a panel is seated.
See more from Boston Criminal Defense Lawyer, Brad Bailey in the media here.