Suffolk prosecutors asked a judge Thursday to let them use information gleaned from psychiatric exams of an Islip man against him in his murder trial, even if he doesn't offer a psychiatric defense.
The apparently unprecedented request came in the trial of Thomas Liming, now 23, who is charged with second-degree murder in the Nov. 16, 2011, death of Kyle Underhill, 18, who was bludgeoned, strangled and buried alive in a marshy grave in Islip. Liming's defense has not contested that he did it, but has suggested his actions were justified.
In preparation for a possible psychiatric element to the defense, doctors hired by both the defense and prosecution have examined Liming, most recently since the trial began a month ago. Outside the jury's presence Thursday, Assistant District Attorney Kathleen Kearon said Liming told doctors things the jury should hear.
She noted that the defense throughout the trial has painted Underhill as a dark, angry, suicidal young man who wanted to kill his former high school friend when they went into the woods off Brook Street.
"The reputation of Kyle Underhill has been probed throughout this trial," Kearon told state Supreme Court Justice Mark Cohen.
But based on minutes of Liming's court-ordered psychiatric exams, Kearon said it's clear that Liming -- not Underhill -- was the angry young man.
"He was cutting himself" in the weeks before the killing, Kearon said of Liming. "He was burning himself. He was self-medicating with alcohol and marijuana. He was having suicidal thoughts."
And when doctors asked Liming his thoughts then about Underhill, Kearon said Liming described him as strange but not a fighter.
"He said he loved Kyle Underhill as a friend," Kearon said. "He saw him as an intellectual, someone who could see the good and bad in people."
Kearon said if defense attorney Joseph Corozzo of Manhattan tries to suggest in any way that his client feared Underhill, prosecutors should be allowed to use Liming's words against him.
"I don't agree with what they said," Corozzo said later, adding that Kearon was wrong both factually and legally. "She makes an argument to get it into the newspaper."
At a sidebar conference, Corozzo objected to having the discussion in front of reporters.
"I don't care about that," Cohen replied. The more important issue is to do what's fair, he said.
He told Kearon and Corozzo to submit legal briefs on the issue by the end of the week, and he would make a ruling before the defense begins presenting witnesses next week.
"I appreciate the novel issue," Cohen told the lawyers.