WAUKESHA COUNTY -- Testimony in the so-called Slenderman trial began on Tuesday, September 12th -- and the jury heard evidence to determine whether Anissa Weier was mentally ill when she was involved in stabbing a classmate. Weier told investigators she helped stab a classmate was convinced the crime would protect her and her family from a horror character called Slenderman who she thought was real, her attorney told jurors Tuesday.
The defense is trying to convince jurors that Weier was suffering from a mental illness at the time of the stabbing at a Waukesha park in 2014 and therefore is not criminally responsible. The classmate was stabbed 19 times in a plot by Weier and co-defendant Morgan Geyser, prosecutors said, and left in a wooded park where she eventually crawled for help after the girls left. A passing bicyclist found the classmate. Weier and Geyser were arrested later that day while walking to meet Slenderman in a northern Wisconsin forest. All three girls were 12 years old at the time.
On Tuesday, jurors heard testimony from investigators who got involved after the 2014 stabbing -- and those who knew Weier before the stabbing.
"Anissa's broken mind caused her to lose touch with reality," defense attorney Joseph Smith told jurors. "Anissa was under the command and control of a delusional disorder."
During his opening statements, Smith played portions of a police interrogation of Weier shortly after her arrest in which she described a plot to kill her classmate in order to become a proxy of Slenderman, whom she described as tall and faceless with numerous tentacles capable of killing her family in a matter of seconds.
Weier, now 15, sat nearby while the snippets of the interview were played on a large screen for jurors.
Smith described Weier as a loner who struggled to fit in with her peers and who found a friend in Geyser. While Weier was dealing with her parents' divorce, teachers began noticing symptoms of depression, he said. With Geyser, Weier developed a "delusional belief system" and together they made a plan to kill their classmate and become Slenderman's proxies, Smith said. Although Weier did not physically stab the classmate, in her mind, she knew it had to be done, Smith told jurors.
Waukesha County Assistant District Attorney Kevin Osborne told jurors that Weier may have believed Slenderman was real, but she had the mental capacity to know she was committing a crime. Osborne says the initial plan was for Weier to stab the classmate, but Weier couldn't do it and instead directed Geyser to do the stabbing.
"In the woods, Morgan's got a knife. What does Anissa do? Morgan's holding back. She's waiting. Anissa says 'go berserk. Go for it.' It's Anissa, not Morgan, that initiates the final act," said Waukesha County Assistant District Attorney Kevin Osborne. "They knew this was wrong. They understood what they were doing was wrong."
Osborne said the police interviews show it wasn't until after the attack had taken place that Geyser told Weier that Weier or her family could have been in danger.
"She goes along because she wants to preserve the one and only friendship" with Geyser, he said.
Weier's father also took the stand.
William Weier, the first defense witness, testified that his daughter went through trying times in grade school as her parents divorced but he never saw anything to suggest she needed mental health care.
"In my opinion, she was a normal child," he said.
"Had it ever come to your attention that your daughter might be in need of some form of mental help?" asked Maura McMahon, defense attorney.
"Not from my perspective. No," answered William Weier, Anissa's father.
However, a girl who knew Weier from school said something Weier told her before the stabbing scared her enough that she told an adult.
"She said something along the lines of, 'I found a way to become a proxy. You have to kill one of your friends.' When I looked at her like, what are you talking about, she was like, 'don't worry, it's not you,'" said the girl.
The lead investigator in the case, Waukesha police Det. Thomas Casey, also took the stand Tuesday.
Both Weier and Geyser were charged with being a party to attempted first-degree intentional homicide. Weier struck a deal with prosecutors in August in which she pleaded guilty to being a party to attempted second-degree intentional homicide, essentially acknowledging she committed all the elements of the offense. But she also pleaded not guilty due to mental illness of defect, setting up the trial on her mental status.
Judge Michael Bohren told jurors they must decide whether Weier had a mental illness at the time of the crime and if so, whether she lacked the capacity to understand her wrongful conduct.
Psychologists testified at a previous court hearing that Weier suffered from persistent depression and a delusional disorder linked to schizotypy, a diminished ability to separate reality from fantasy.
At least 10 of the 12 jurors must agree on a verdict.
Geyser has pleaded not guilty to being a party to first-degree attempted homicide. Her trial is set to begin October 9th.