In Ruth Olsen murder case, lawyers make closing arguments

James Olsen, of Garden City, who is accused James Olsen, of Garden City, who is accused in the death of his 88-year-old mother in 2011, leaves the Nassau County Court in Mineola after opening statements in his trial on Friday, May 9, 2014. Photo Credit: Howard Schnapp

advertisement | advertise on newsday

Lawyers used images from inside the Garden City home where Ruth Olsen's slaying happened to try to prove their cases during closing arguments in her son's murder trial Tuesday.

The 88-year-old woman was dead in her bedroom, the necktie used in the killing still around her throat, in a photo that the prosecution showed to jurors.

But an attorney for defendant James Olsen displayed a photo of the basement, comparing its disarray to his client's mind during the slaying. He said that in contrast, the bedroom of Ruth Olsen, an Alzheimer's disease patient, looked "pristine" and showed her son still took care of her.

Jurors on Wednesday will start considering whether James Olsen, 59, killed his mother in cold blood in April 2011, or was mentally ill and didn't know it was wrong when he took her life.

Assistant District Attorney Christine Geier used the defendant's words on a 911 call while arguing for a guilty verdict on a second-degree murder charge.

"He tells the 911 operator it was a murder. He knew it was wrong," she said, also claiming that Olsen was manipulative when talking to a psychologist.

advertisement | advertise on newsday

That defense expert previously testified Olsen became so depressed as live-in caretaker for his mother that he decided to take his life and hers so she wouldn't go into a nursing home.

But Geier claimed Olsen exaggerated his suicide attempt to try and make his defense more believable.

She told jurors in Nassau County Court that he had been anxious about finances because he was living off his mother's money, and had used some of it from a reverse home mortgage to buy himself a $1,000 camera.

"This defendant killed his mother because he was fed up," Geier said.

But defense attorney Paul Delle of Garden City said the prosecution's claim that Olsen was spending all his mother's money was untrue. He said the psychologist's testimony fit with medical records that documented how Olsen said he heard voices and felt the sensation of "looking down on himself" while strangling his mother.

Delle said Olsen's suicide attempt included a throat wound 10 centimeters deep. "It wasn't 'I'm going to pretend I'm crazy,' " said Delle, who lobbied for a not-guilty verdict by reason of insanity. Olsen faces up to 25 years to life in prison if convicted.

The best of Newsday everyday in your inbox. Get the Newsday Now newsletter!

You also may be interested in: