Judge Rules Philip Chism, Teen in Teacher Killing Case, Competent to Stand Trial

A Massachusetts teenager charged with raping and killing his math teacher is now mentally competent to stand trial, a judge ruled Wednesday.

Jury selection had begun in 16-year-old Philip Chism's trial last month, but it was suspended after Chism's lawyers expressed concerns about his competency. Essex County Superior Court Judge David Lowy reviewed the findings of a mental health evaluation and said Wednesday that it can resume.

Chism is charged in the October 2013 rape and slaying of 24-year-old Danvers High School teacher Colleen Ritzer. He was 14 at the time but is being tried as an adult. He pleaded not guilty, and his lawyers have indicated they will use an insanity defense.

Chism had refused to enter the courtroom, banged his head against a floor and told a psychologist he hears voices and hopes someone will shoot him. Prosecutors said they believe he was faking to avoid a trial.

Lowy had him undergo a 20-day mental health evaluation.

Jury selection will resume Thursday. The judge said opening statements could be given on Nov. 16 or earlier.

Ritzer's body was found in woods near the school. Prosecutors said her throat had been slit with a box cutter. A student in Ritzer's class said she overheard the teacher asking Chism to stay after school after she saw him drawing instead of taking notes.

Chism had recently moved to Massachusetts from Clarksville, Tennessee.

Copyright AP - Associated Press
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