A neurologist hired by the prosecution testified Friday that when a Centereach man hit his fiancee's frail grandmother at least 25 times, it was "impossible" that he did so while in the throes of a seizure or just afterward.
That conclusion is a key one for state Supreme Court Justice Fernando Camacho to weigh next week when he decides whether Robert Waters, 24, should be held criminally responsible for the brutal beating death of Florence Troiani, 90, on June 21, 2011, in the home they shared. Waters is charged with second-degree murder.
His defense doesn't contest that he caused her death, breaking most of her ribs, six bones in her back and ripping a 21/2-inch hole in her heart. Defense attorney Anthony La Pinta instead has argued that Waters, who had recently stopped taking anti-seizure and anti-anxiety medication, is not guilty by reason of mental defect.
"It doesn't make sense," Dr. Mark Gudesblatt said during questioning by Assistant District Attorney Glenn Kurtzrock. He couldn't have caused Troiani's injuries even if he had a seizure while lying on top of her, said Gudesblatt, who has a practice in Islip.
Waters was reported to be speaking and throwing things during the attack and later walking and sitting. Gudesblatt said people having a seizure cannot form words or make controlled actions. Afterward, while their brains are "rebooting," he said, seizure sufferers are typically exhausted, still and confused, with no memory of what happened and little ability to respond to questions.
In this case, Waters spoke with police officers, emergency medical technicians and doctors in the hours after he killed Troiani and even recalled a few details. Gudesblatt said that showed this was no seizure.
Although Waters had a seizure the previous December, his actions when Troiani died were completely different, Gudesblatt said. The earlier seizure may have been the result of a head injury Waters got in a car crash, Gudesblatt said.
During a contentious cross-examination, Gudesblatt told La Pinta that Waters instead likely has "explosive personality disorder" and acted out of rage. He said Waters' fiancee wasn't accurate when she told a 911 dispatcher that he was having a seizure.
Gudesblatt dismissed some similarities between the December 2010 seizure and this event as unimportant, focusing on Waters' ability to act, walk, speak and recall in June.
Kurtzrock has suggested Waters killed Troiani because she refused to give him painkillers she had.