From the archives: Ferguson lawyers seek new test
This story was originally published in Newsday on Aug. 12, 1994.
Lawyers for LIRR shooting suspect Colin Ferguson filed an unusual motion yesterday requesting a second competency exam for their client, who was first declared mentally fit for trial in January.
The request came one week before the attorneys were expected to tell County Court Judge Donald Belfi what sort of defense they expect to use. While attorneys William Kunstler and Ronald Kuby have said they'll use a psychiatric defense, they haven't yet officially informed the court of their plans.
To back up their motion, they included rambling, handwritten letters from Ferguson that refer to some of his vivid dreams and that accuse Kunstler and Kuby of misguiding the court, interfering with his medical treatment and blackmailing him.
"Clearly he's deteriorated dramatically since even March when we entered into the case," Kuby said yesterday. "The man is crazy."
But Ed Grilli, a spokesman for Nassau District Attorney Denis Dillon, said, "It's extremely unusual for a person to request a second competency exam . . . Competency is not a difficult test. Basically, it's can they assist in their own defense? Can they understand the nature of the charges?"
In court papers, the defense attorneys argue that Ferguson is incapable of assisting in his own defense. He repeatedly has refused to see a defense psychiatrist. His "behavior has been increasingly aberrant and unpredictable. Day by day, he has grown more delusional, paranoid and obsessive," the motion said.
And while Ferguson initially agreed with attorneys to pursue a psychiatric defense, he "has begun to assert that he, in fact, did not do the shooting, although he has acknowledged being on the train and possessing a weapon," the motion said. "These assertions, obviously, are totally at variance with the evidence and with reality."
The papers also indicate that Ferguson may choose to represent himself, raising the possibility that he might eventually cross-examine his own victims. Ferguson is charged in a 93-count indictment with murder and assault in the killing of six passengers and the wounding of 19 others on a crowded Long Island Rail Road car Dec. 7.
After his arrest, police found notes on Ferguson that suggested he acted out of rage towards Asians, whites and "Uncle Tom" blacks. In the letters released yesterday, Ferguson wrote to Belfi, "I know you hate me along with all of Nassau County, but let this effort not be in vain . . . You and all who are against me will eventually share a common grave with me, which is the dust of the earth."
And in a letter to his lawyers, Ferguson described his soul as "overwhelmed" and said he felt ominous premonitions. "Who can comprehend the wisdom and strength of spirit that God has given me? Yet I continue to be ignored and misunderstood, and those that hate me wrongfully are multiplied," he wrote.