Lawyer: Deluded killer thought victims were Nazis
(Court TV) -- Michael "Mucko" McDermott believed he was on a mission from St. Michael the Archangel to prevent the Holocaust when he gunned down seven co-workers at an Internet company, his lawyer told jurors Wednesday.
"He believes he killed no one but Hitler and his six generals," attorney Kevin Reddington said in a rare midtrial opening statement during this East Cambridge, Mass, trial. After the prosecution rested its case, Reddington revealed for the first time details of his planned insanity defense and promised the 43-year-old software engineer would take the stand in the full throes of schizophrenia.
"You will hear, you will see this is not some ploy, some cheap lawyer trick. This man is insane," said Reddington, as a seemingly oblivious McDermott stared at a book on the defense table. The lawyer, who chose to give his opening at the start of his case rather than the start of the trial, explained his client's impassiveness as a symptom of schizophrenia and Cotard's Syndrome, a disorder in which the sufferer believes himself to be dead.
His lawyer acknowledged that McDermott rampaged through the offices of Edgewater Technologies in Wakefield on December 26, 2000, firing a rifle and a shotgun at terrified co-workers "who did nothing but go to work that day." But he dismissed the claim of prosecutors, who are seeking seven murder convictions and a life sentence, that McDermott was seeking revenge after the company began garnishing his wages for the IRS.
He said McDermott's tax debt was $3,300, a small sum compared to the $50,000 retirement savings he had accumulated. Instead, Reddington said, the killings were the result of a religious delusion that capped a life of mental disturbance.
McDermott, he said, was raped by a neighbor as a youngster and showed signs of serious mental illness shortly after joining the Navy at age 17. Aboard a nuclear submarine deep in the Mediterranean, Reddington said, McDermott tried to open the vessel's valves to escape. Later, while working at a Maine power plant, he was consumed by a "raging paranoia" and tried to kill himself.
Reddington said that throughout his life McDermott, who had an IQ of 148 and was raised in a strict Catholic home, believed he was without a soul. He said his client strove to seem sane and read extensively about mental disorders so he could learn how to appear normal.
On December 14, 2000, McDermott saw a vision of St. Michael telling him that he could gain a soul by preventing the Holocaust, the lawyer said. He noted that McDermott interpreted a Christmas Day eclipse he watched with his niece as the second sign that he should act. The third sign in his troubled mind, the lawyer said, was the mention by a co-worker of either Boxing Day or St. Stephen's Day, December 26.
Reddington said that, on the third sign, McDermott got up from his desk and downed a stash of pain killers stolen from his father with vodka. He believed the overdose would kill him and allow him to enter a portal where he could kill Nazis. Reddington said he still does not believe the people he shot were friends and co-workers.
With the relatives of victims massed in the gallery, Reddington conceded that in such a "gut-wrenching case" his argument sounded far-fetched.
"You might say, 'My God, where is this headed,'" he said. Before Reddington's opening statement, jurors heard from several police officers and the medical examiner. Wakefield officer George Barry recalled arresting McDermott in the office lobby immediately after the shootings. Barry said McDermott stated, "I don't speak German" when officers demanded he put his hands up. Barry said McDermott seemed to understand what was happening and had no trouble following directions.
Two ballistics experts said McDermott emptied a shotgun and an AK-47 and had more than 500 additional pieces of ammunition in a gym bag.
Medical examiner Stanton Kessler showed jurors graphic autopsy photos depicting the wounds of the seven victims.
Reddington is to open his case Thursday morning.
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