WAUKESHA – A girl who helped a friend try to kill their classmate shouldn't be held criminally responsible for the crime because she believed at the time that she and or her family would be killed by the internet character Slender Man if she didn't act, her lawyer told a jury Tuesday.
"How could she have believed this?" Joseph Smith Jr. asked rhetorically. He said three psychological experts would explain how his client, Anissa Weier, and her co-defendant, Morgan Geyser, shared a delusion and lost touch with reality.
During his opening statement, Smith played segments of Weier's disturbing interrogation during which she described Slender Man and his purported powers to a police detective who had never heard of the character.
"He could easily kill my whole family in three seconds," she tells the detective.
A prosecutor said the state won't dispute the experts but said the real issue is why Weier went along with the attack.
"She wanted to preserve her one and only friendship" with Geyser, Assistant District Attorney Kevin Osborne said, and she knew the stabbing was wrong because she twice declined to do it herself as originally planned.
Instead, Osborne said, Weier told Geyser to do it. "Go berserk," was the command, he said.
The opening statements began what is expected to be a weeklong trial on whether Weier should be sent to prison or committed to a state mental hospital.
Weier, 15, was 12 in May 2014 when she and Geyser carried out a plan to kill their sixth-grade classmate, Payton Leutner, after a sleepover. The victim survived multiple stabbings, and Weier and Geyser were charged as adults with attempted first-degree intentional homicide.
Weier recently agreed to plead guilty to attempted second-degree intentional homicide, and stand trial only on whether she should be held criminally responsible. Both girls have pleaded not guilty by reason of mental disease or defect.
Sixteen jurors began hearing the case Tuesday after spending the night sequestered at a hotel. Weier's attorneys have the burden of proving that at the time of the crime, she suffered from a mental disease or defect that prevented her from understanding her conduct was wrong or from conforming her actions to the law.