NEW YORK — The murder trial of a mental patient who slashed a psychotherapist to death with a meat cleaver ended Tuesday with the jury deadlocked, unable to decide whether he was too psychotic to be held criminally accountable.
Ten days into deliberations in a trial delayed for years by killer David Tarloff's schizophrenia, jurors said, for a third time, that they couldn't reach a verdict, and the judge declared a mistrial.
Prosecutors, Tarloff and psychologist Kathryn Faughey's family now face the prospect of a third attempt at a trial. The first, in 2010, collapsed during jury selection when Tarloff's behavior disintegrated and he was found unfit for court.
The Manhattan district attorney's office said it plans to retry the case. Tarloff's lawyers said they hoped the next jury would accept his insanity defense and agree he's not criminally responsible for Faughey's killing, which Tarloff says he did during a robbery attempt aimed at getting money to take his sick mother to Hawaii.
"The right verdict in this case is a unanimously not-responsible verdict," said one of Tarloff's lawyers, Bryan Konoski.
Tarloff, 45, wasn't in court when state Supreme Court Justice Edward McLaughlin said the trial was over.
Jurors left declining to speak to reporters. Three stopped to talk to Faughey's siblings in a courthouse hallway. Faughey's three brothers and three sisters had attended every day of the more than monthlong trial.
The deadlock was "very disappointing for us, but we will be back until we get justice in this case for our sister," said one of the brothers, Owen Faughey.
Tarloff's trial asked jurors to decide whether he was a scheming criminal or a man too mentally ill to know right from wrong.
"It's not true that (Tarloff) wasn't aware that society views shoving a knife into someone as wrong," Manhattan Assistant District Attorney Evan Krutoy said in a closing argument earlier this month. "Mental illness plays a role in this crime, clearly. The question is wrongfulness."
Defense lawyers said Tarloff was too sick to understand the nature of what he was doing. They pointed to the oddity of his plan – a stick-up scheme that targeted a psychiatrist he hadn't seen in 17 years and figured on netting $40,000 or more from an ATM – and his delusional belief that he had God's approval to carry it out.
Faughey, 56, specialized in helping people with relationships. She'd never met Tarloff, let alone treated him. But she shared an office with the psychiatrist who'd first had him hospitalized in 1991, Dr. Kent Shinbach.
Tarloff was diagnosed with schizophrenia during his college years. He has been hospitalized more than a dozen times, recounted seeing the "eye of God" on the kitchen floor and viewed pieces of paper on the street as a special message from God, according to court papers. His brother testified that he once came to find Tarloff naked and throwing eggs on the wall.
For years, his relatives tried unsuccessfully to get him to stay in mental hospitals or adult homes, but he left them.
After his mother moved from the Queens apartment they shared to a nursing home in 2004, Tarloff became convinced she was being mistreated and determined to get her out.
He hit upon a scheme: Hold up Shinbach, get the doctor's ATM code, withdraw $40,000 or more, seize his mother from the home and take her to Hawaii.
After making a series of phone calls to find out the location and hours of Shinbach's office on Manhattan's Upper East Side, Tarloff bought a cutlery set, a rubber meat-pounding mallet and rope. He set out with those and a suitcase of adult diapers and clothes for his mother.
Faughey encountered Tarloff first and confronted him. He slashed her 15 times, fractured her skull with the mallet, seriously wounded Shinbach when he tried to rescue her and fled.
Tarloff later told authorities he believed Faughey was evil and would attack him.
Jurors first said they were at an impasse Thursday and were instructed to keep deliberating. They said they were deadlocked again Monday and yet again Tuesday after the judge asked them whether further deliberations would bear any fruit.
Lawyers will be back in court May 21 for a status update.
For now, Tarloff is being held without bail. If he ultimately is convicted, he could be sentenced to life in prison.
If his insanity defense succeeds, he would be acquitted but held in a mental hospital until, if ever, doctors and a judge decided he was well enough to go free.
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