Wayne Treacy is mentally ill, and he was deeply traumatized by witnessing the suicide of his older brother, a state prosecutor conceded Friday in closing arguments of the Pompano Beach teenagers attempted first-degree murder trial in Broward Circuit Court.
But Maria Schneider, the assistant state attorney prosecuting the case, urged the jury to remember the victim, Josie Lou Ratley, who was 15-years-old when Treacy threw her to the pavement, and repeatedly slammed her head into the ground and kicked her in the head while wearing steel-toed boots.
What do you think steel-toed boots do to a brain? Schneider asked the jury. If experiencing trauma can make a difference forever, what do you think being kicked, stomped, having your head bashed into the ground repeatedly does to your life?
Treacy, 17, winced as Schneider described his brutal attack on Ratley at the campus of Deerfield Beach Middle School in March 2010. He is presenting an insanity defense, and faces a maximum sentence of 50 years in prison if convicted.
Earlier in the day, Treacy declined to testify in his own defense. But Russell Williams, Treacys defense attorney, urged jurors to find his client not guilty by reason of insanity, reminding them of the testimony of medical experts who diagnosed Treacy with severe post-traumatic stress disorder or PTSD, and depression.
Those medical experts evaluated Treacy, and also deemed him to be generally a good kid, Williams said, with very high moral standards, not impulsive as a personality trait, empathetic, completely remorseful.
Why would somebody like that brutally beat somebody he doesnt even know, Williams asked the jury. There has to be a reason. What is that reason? Youre going to have to figure that out.
Before witnessing the suicide of his older brother, Michael Bell, who hung himself from a tree with an electrical cord in October 2009, Treacy had been an exemplary student with no history of violence or other trouble, Williams said.
The suicide deeply scarred Treacy, medical experts testified, and he likely experienced a trance-like dissociative episode triggered by a taunting text message from Ratley telling him to go visit your dead brother on the day of the attack.
The two teens had never met, but that morning Treacy received a text message from a girlfriend who had borrowed Ratleys phone to contact him. Ratley disapproved of the relationship, though, and told Treacy so when she got her cell phone back.
The text message exchange quickly became abusive, with both teens insulting each other.
Schneider, the prosecutor, presented the jury with a poster-sized spreadsheet of Treacys text message exchange with Ratley and others in the hours leading up to and following the crime.
Before Ratley ever mentioned Treacys dead brother, Schneider pointed out, he had threatened to kill or harm the girl at least three times.
Then about 12 minutes into their text exchange, Treacy insulted Ratleys father. Ratley then replied that her father was dead.
Like I give a s---, Treacy replied.
Shortly afterward, Ratley told Treacy to go visit his dead brother.
I do not excuse that remark, Schneider told the jury. It was never right. ... Its still not enough to justify a vicious attack.