Chism Jury Selection Halted Due to Competency Concerns

Jury selection in the trial of a Massachusetts teen accused of raping and killing his high-school teacher has been halted amid concerns about his mental competency.

Philip Chism, 16, is accused of raping and murdering Danvers High School math teacher Colleen Ritzer in 2013. Ritzer, 24, was found dead in the woods near the school. Prosecutors said her throat had been slit with a box cutter.

Chism was 14 at the time but will be tried as an adult.

Jury selection began last week in Essex Superior Court in Salem. A psychiatrist brought in to examine Chism in court Tuesday tried twice to speak with him, and both times he refused to acknowledge her.

Court officers reported Chism banged his head on the floor of a padded room where he was held. The psychiatrist will examine Chism again briefly on Wednesday, according to the judge's ruling.

Defense attorneys have said they plan to use a mental health defense but haven't revealed specifics.

Necn legal analyst Randy Chapman said it's possible jury selection will continue Wednesday morning.

"Competency is a fluid concept. A person can be competent one day and incompetent the next. The determination the court has to make is whether the person is truly incompetent from some kind of mental disease or illness or they're feigning lack of competency in order to avoid the trial that is ongoing," he explained.

If Chism continues to ignore the psychiatrist, he will likely be taken to a psychiatric facility for extended evaluation before the judge determines whether the trial can continue.

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