Colin Ferguson was convicted in March 1995 for crimes associated with a massacre in Long Island, New York, on December 7, 1993. Ferguson killed six persons and injured nineteen after opening fire with an automatic pistol on a crowded commuter train.
Ferguson's trial was marked with controversy. He discharged his court-appointed attorneys, who believed him mentally incompetent to stand trial, and was allowed by the judge to act as his own attorney. He dropped the insanity defense prepared by his attorneys and argued that a mysterious gunman had committed the shootings.
His bizarre courtroom behavior appeared to contradict the judge's conclusion that Ferguson was competent to stand trial. Though many witnesses identified Ferguson as the gunman, he insisted a white man had taken the gun from his bag while he slept, shot the passengers, and then escaped, leaving Ferguson, who is black, to take the blame. During the trial he asserted that he had been charged with ninety-three counts only because the crime occurred in 1993.
Attorneys Ronald L. Kuby and WILLIAM M. KUNSTLER, whom Ferguson had discharged, had asked the judge before trial to find that Ferguson's paranoia and delusional state made him mentally incompetent to stand trial. Yet Ferguson refused to be examined by either prosecution or defense psychiatrists, believing he was not insane. The judge allowed Ferguson to stand trial, believing he could understand the nature of the charges against him and could assist in his own defense.
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