CHICAGO, Sept 12 — Opening statements were to start later today in the trial of one of two US teens accused of stabbing a friend to appease a fictitious internet character, in a case that inspired a TV documentary.
Anissa Weier and Morgan Geyser — now 15, but 12 years old at the time of the 2014 crime — were charged with attempted first-degree murder for the brutal attack blamed on their belief in Slender Man — an online horror villain.
The two are accused of stabbing friend Payton Leutner, who survived the attack, 19 times at a park in Waukesha, Wisconsin, a suburb of the Midwestern city of Milwaukee.
A jury of 12 and four alternates was empaneled yesterday for Weier’s trial, and were to be sequestered in a hotel for the duration, which could last as late as September 21.
Both teens have asserted insanity defences, saying they had wanted to please Slender Man to avoid him hurting their families.
Geyser is to stand trial next month.
The case has been the subject of public fascination, with video of the girls’ police interrogations featured in the 2016 HBO documentary Beware the Slenderman.
“Morgan jumped on top of Bella and started stabbing her repeatedly, and that’s when I turned around because I couldn’t stand to see that,” Weier tells police in the interrogation video, using a nickname for the victim.
Geyser, during her own police interview, claimed it was Weier who jumped on Leutner and “held her to the floor”.
“I think Anissa stabbed her first, and then I continued.”
Weier pleaded guilty in August to a reduced attempted second-degree homicide charge in a Wisconsin court.
The trial will determine Weier’s mental health and whether she is to be sentenced to prison or a hospital.
Under the terms of Weier’s guilty plea, prosecutors would recommend 10 years in prison if the jury rejects her insanity defence, but the judge could impose a sentence of as much as 25 years.
Weier would be committed to a mental hospital for at least three years if the jury finds her impaired by mental illness.
Psychologists testified in pre-trial hearings that Weier suffered from depression and a delusional disorder that made it difficult to tell reality from fantasy, according to US media.
Geyser was being treated at a mental hospital for schizophrenia.
Waukesha County Circuit Judge Michael Bohren yesterday dismissed at least two dozen potential jurors, including several who expressed skepticism of an insanity defence, US media reported.
“They think they can get off with a lesser penalty — just put ‘em in a nut house a couple years and let them out,” the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel quoted one potential juror, who was excused, as saying. — AFP