Faye Doomchin’s long battle with schizophrenia and a delusion about being picked to rid the world of evil led her to fatally stab a British tourist in her Great Neck home in a tragedy that is “beyond words,” her lawyer said Friday.
“There was no rational reason for Faye to have stabbed her,” Manhattan defense attorney Robert Gottlieb said of victim Denise Webster during his closing argument in the Nassau County Court murder trial.
“Faye set out to destroy evil … the devil that she perceived to be right there in her living room,” he added.
But prosecutor Martin Meaney later countered that Doomchin, whom he acknowledged is mentally ill, intentionally killed Webster, 61, on Aug. 13, 2018.
He argued that evidence showed Doomchin knew what she was doing was wrong when she plunged a kitchen knife into the victim’s belly without provocation, and that even people with mental illness can be criminally responsible for their actions.
The attack happened after the women returned to Doomchin’s home for cake and piano music after lunch out with mutual male friend Mitchell Kessler and his mother.
“There’s a difference between being strange and getting away with murder,” Meaney also told acting State Supreme Court Justice Robert Bogle. “And I submit to you, Judge, that’s what the defense is trying to do in this case – get away with murder.”
Kessler testified during the trial that he and Webster were fellow fans of the rock band Queen and its current frontman, Adam Lambert, and planned to travel together during her three-week trip abroad as she marked five years of being cancer-free.
Bogle, who has presided in the week-long, non-jury trial, will decide if Doomchin is guilty of second-degree murder or not responsible by reason of mental disease or defect. He said he will announce the verdict on Aug. 12.
The trial has broken new legal ground in New York, with Doomchin using a Skype video conference link to participate from Nassau’s jail and witness testimony that has included both Skype and in-person appearances.
The proceeding also became Long Island’s first criminal trial during the coronavirus pandemic that for months had forced a switch to virtual operations as most New York courts closed to prevent virus spread.
“You all here were part of a landmark moment in the history of criminal justice,” Bogle said Friday, thanking court staff, trial participants and top judicial administrators for making the “unique endeavor” work.
Earlier Friday, Gottlieb attacked the testimony of psychiatrist Jeremy Colley, labeling the prosecution’s sole witness a “hired gun” and “a charlatan with an M.D. degree.”
Colley testified that while he believed Doomchin had bipolar disorder, she wasn’t experiencing a delusion when she killed Webster and he saw no evidence that she was psychotic that day.
But forensic psychologist Chuck Denison, an expert for the defense, testified that Doomchin was “in the throes of a psychotic episode” during the killing.
She believed an “evil force was permeating the world” and her special role was “to help rid the world of evil,” Denison said.
Gottlieb repeatedly compared the 2018 homicide to a 1999 nonfatal attack in which Doomchin stabbed a stranger in a real estate office. She pleaded not responsible by reason of mental disease or defect after her arrest then and underwent years of outpatient psychiatric treatment.
The defense claimed Doomchin had the same delusion during both attacks and that her medical records showed it had persisted for decades.
“This case is a tragedy beyond words,” Gottlieb told the judge.
But Meaney argued Doomchin’s actions from 1999 “aren’t on trial here.”
He played excerpts of a video of the defendant speaking to police after the homicide in which he said she appeared “lucid” and displayed no psychosis.
Meaney then pointed out to the judge that Doomchin spoke then about what she had done as “a terrible mistake, not ‘the Devil made me do it.’”
During part of the video replay, Doomchin – through her Skype connection at the jail – mumbled about a “delusion” and “the Devil.” From time to time Friday, she also erupted in brief crying jags.
As Bogle concluded the proceeding, Doomchin addressed the judge.
“Thank you, Judge. God bless you,” she said.