FORT LAUDERDALE— - A Broward judge on Wednesday set a trial date for the Pompano Beach teenager accused of trying to kill a Deerfield Beach Middle School student by stomping on her head in retaliation for a callous text message exchange.
Jury selection in the first-degree attempted murder case of Wayne Treacy, who turns 17 on Saturday, will begin on Jan. 26, 2012.
Jurors will be asked to decide whether they believe Treacy was responsible for his actions or criminally insane when he assaulted Josie Lou Ratley, throwing her to the ground and stomping on her head with steel-toe boots.
The March 17, 2010 attack left Ratley, then 15, fighting for her life. Doctors say she suffered irreversible brain damage as a result. Prosecutors say the attack took place two hours after Ratley and Treacy got into a heated text message exchange that erupted when Ratley told Treacy to visit his dead brother.
The brother, Michael Bell, had committed suicide on Oct. 10, 2009. Treacy saw the body before it was cut down from a tree outside a Pompano Beach church and suffered from untreated post-traumatic stress disorder as a result, according to psychologists who evaluated him after the assault on Ratley.
Treacy's lawyer, Russell Williams, filed a formal notice on Wednesday that he will rely on an insanity defense. Prosecutor Maria Schneider did not object, although she did note that insanity pleas are supposed to be filed within weeks of charges being filed.
"This should have been done 17 months ago," she said.
Williams has always indicated publicly that he intends to rely on mental health issues in defending Treacy, a Deerfield Beach High School student with no prior criminal record. It wasn't until late last month, however, that Treacy was evaluated by Alexander Neumeister, a New York psychiatrist who specializes in post-traumatic stress.
Williams said Neumeister will show that Treacy suffered from dissociative disorder and dissociative fugue, a mental state of detachment. That will be offered as an explanation of how Treacy was not in his right mind from when he first threatened via text message to kill Ratley, through the time of the attack more than two hours later.
Prosecutors have said Treacy knew what he was doing, knew the consequences, and knew it was morally and legally wrong,
Whether Treacy's mental illness qualifies as legal insanity will be for the jury to decide. Several months before the attack on Ratley, a Broward jury rejected the insanity defense put forth by Dillard High School student Teah Wimberly, who was convicted of gunning down classmate Amanda Collette.
The Treacy case is being handled by the same prosecutor.