COLUMBUS, Ohio – Closing arguments were made in the trial of the gunman tied to a string of Ohio highway shootings (search), with prosecutors urging jurors to find him insane and defense lawyers insisting "This boy is not evil. This boy is sick."
Jurors have to determine whether Charles McCoy Jr. (search) intended to kill when he shot at moving vehicles, or that he knew that he would cause damage when firing at buildings and a van.
McCoy's attorneys concede he was the gunman in the 12 shootings. Under his plea of innocent by reason of insanity, they must prove that severe, untreated paranoid schizophrenia (search) prevented McCoy from understanding the shootings were wrong.
"He caused the terror. He caused the heartbreak," defense attorney Michael Miller said in his closing arguments Wednesday. "We've never denied it."
McCoy, 29, could face the death penalty if convicted of the most serious charge of aggravated murder in the death of Gail Knisley, the only person struck during the shootings in 2003 and 2004. She was a passenger in a car that was struck by a bullet.
If jurors find him insane, he would be sent to a mental hospital.
The prosecution argues that McCoy has had severe paranoid schizophrenia dating back to at least 1997, and wasn't taking his medicine.
Jurors deliberated about an hour Wednesday afternoon before being bused to a hotel, where they are being sequestered. They were to resume their work Thursday.
Both sides agree that McCoy was tormented by voices that ridiculed him for not standing up to imaginary conspirators who fed his thoughts to the television and that the voices reduced after a shooting.
Assistant Prosecutor Doug Stead said McCoy deliberately picked remote shooting locations and took steps to avoid capture. "He knew what he was doing was wrong and he wanted to get away with it," Stead said.
But Miller pleaded with jurors to find him insane. "This boy is not evil. This boy is sick," Miller said. "This boy is not rational. This boy is psychotic."
After the defense made its arguments, prosecutors, who always get the last word in criminal trials, questioned Miller's description of the defendant as a "boy."
"That man took this gun from his house," Prosecutor Ron O'Brien said, holding up the murder weapon, its evidence tag dangling. He loaded it, took the safety off and fired, O'Brien said. "That man did that 12 times in this case, and that man killed Gail Knisley."
The insanity defense revolves around two conflicting psychiatrists. The defense expert, Dr. Mark Mills, said McCoy told him shooting would reduce harassing voices in his head. In his desperation, he said, McCoy couldn't have focused on whether killing was wrong.
A prosecution expert testified that McCoy did several things that showed he knew the shootings were wrong, including not shooting if a police officer was close, leaving shooting scenes quickly and moving his attacks to other roads after police focused on the stretch of Interstate 270 near his home where the shootings began.