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From the archives: Again, ruled fit for trial

This story was originally published in Newsday on Aug. 20, 1994.

Long Island Rail Road gunman Colin Ferguson was again declared competent to stand trial yesterday, but the larger question of whether his attorneys will pursue an insanity defense has been put off for another month.

County Court Judge Donald Belfi set a Sept. 19 deadline for Ferguson's attorneys to file official notice of an insanity defense, which they said they would do - despite their client's vociferous objections yesterday.

Ferguson's attorneys, William Kunstler and Ronald Kuby, asked for a second competency exam last week. They said that their client was growing increasingly delusional and that he had deteriorated since a January exam found him fit for trial. Meanwhile, defense motions indicate, Ferguson is considering representing himself at trial.

"He's utterly delusional, he's utterly insane," Kuby said outside of court yesterday.

But because Ferguson is now refusing to cooperate with psychiatrists, Belfi took it upon himself to determine whether Ferguson was competent. He unsealed the results of Ferguson's first exam and asked him a series of questions aimed at determining whether Ferguson understands the charges against him.

When Belfi asked Ferguson whether he knew assistant district attorney George Peck's role, Ferguson began describing a "monstrous and evidently wounded criminal justice system" before abruptly being cut off by Belfi. "To perpetrate injustice against me," Ferguson tried again, before finally agreeing that Peck's job was to prosecute him.
Ferguson also objected to using an insanity defense.

"At no time have I agreed to a psychiatric defense," he said, "and as far as I'm concerned, there was no grounds for the motion ordering me to be seen by a psychiatrist."

When Belfi adjourned the case despite Ferguson's attempts to address the court further, Ferguson objected, accused the court of trying to cover up the facts, then complained that he was being handcuffed too tightly. He went limp and had to be carried out of the room by five court officers.

After the court session, Kunstler said: "If he's competent to stand trial, then he's competent to make decisions about his own defense."

Ferguson was described in the unsealed exam report as evasive, defensive and misleading throughout his evaluation process. John G. D'Alessandro, a consulting psychologist, concluded Dec. 28 that Ferguson "has sufficient intelligence and judgment to listen to the advice of his counsel."

When asked by doctors if he knew what murder was, Ferguson replied, "I don't want to know what it means," adding, "I don't care about that word," the report said. Asked by another psychiatrist what competency meant, Ferguson said, "It means I'm smart."

Judge Belfi also directed all sides to appear Sept. 12 to hear Ferguson's motion for an independent retina specialist. Ferguson has said he feared he was going blind from an injury he received March 22 when five other inmates beat him at the Nassau County jail.

Ferguson, 36, is accused in a 93-count indictment of murder and assault in the killing of six passengers and the wounding of 19 others on a crowded Long Island Rail Road car in December.

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