NYC castration killing case heads for trial

February 24, 2012 - 6:25 PM

NEW YORK (AP) — A Portuguese model charged with castrating and killing a noted Portuguese TV personality had the mental capacity to know what he was doing was wrong, a prosecution psychiatrist has found in an assessment that puts the murder case on course for trial.

Renato Seabra's lawyer confirmed the finding after a court date Friday. The assessment doesn't prevent the 22-year-old Seabra from pursuing a planned insanity defense, but there might have been no need for a trial if the prosecution's psychiatrist had agreed he shouldn't be held responsible for Carlos Castro's death.

Castro's mutilated, bloodied body was found on Jan. 7, 2011, in a Times Square hotel room the two men were sharing. Friends have said Seabra and Castro, 65, were a couple, but Seabra's mother has disputed that.

Seabra later told police he had choked Castro, stabbed him with a corkscrew in his face and groin, rammed a computer monitor into his head and stomped on his face after an argument, then showered and wandered the city for a while before taking a taxi to a hospital, according to a court document.

Seabra's lawyer, David Touger, has said his client was suffering from a "manic episode." Six doctors who examined Seabra that night found that his mental condition made him unable to know what he was doing was wrong, Touger said in court last week.

But the prosecutor's psychiatrist disagreed, though details of his findings have not been made public. The findings concern Seabra's mental state at the time of Castro's death. Under New York law, that's considered separately from his mental fitness for trial, which isn't in question.

It may now fall to a jury to decide whether Seabra meets the standards for an insanity defense — under New York law, that's technically a finding of not being criminally responsible because of mental disease or defect. It entails showing that a defendant was so mentally ill at the time of a crime that he or she couldn't comprehend the nature or consequences of his or her actions or that they were wrong.

If Seabra's insanity defense succeeds, he would be acquitted and sent to a mental hospital until doctors and a judge concluded he was well enough for release, if ever. If convicted of murder, on the other hand, he could face up to life in prison.

In the meantime, Seabra is being held without bail.

"Under the circumstances, I think he's doing OK," Touger said.

Seabra is due back in court March 9, when a trial date might be set.

Seabra is from Cantanhede, in central Portugal. He was a contestant on "A Procura Do Sonho," or "Pursuit of a Dream," a Portuguese modeling talent search TV show. He didn't win but did get a modeling contract.

Castro was a well-known TV personality and writer in Portugal.

___

Jennifer Peltz can be reached at http://twitter.com/jennpeltz