East New York. The district attorney’s office, represented by Ann Gutmann and Lance Ojiste, insisted that his actions were deliberate, considered, and without justification.

The trial opened in June 1993.66 The prosecution presented evidence from the school and from counseling centers where he had been treated to make the case that Khalil had been disruptive and violent in the past. They also argued that his purported fear did not justify the shootings. Khalil, in their view, had not exhausted his options within the system of supports available at the school and in the community. It was his tendency toward violence that accounted for his actions, not his fear.

In support of their case, they called psychiatrist Robert H. Berger. Berger argued that Khalil was a manipulative young man, whose pattern was to seek quick gratification and avoid responsibility. Berger read from notes of a therapist who had treated Khalil, which stated, “Khalil appears to be fascinated by violence and hurting people who challenge him.”67 In Berger’s view, Khalil was not acting under duress or the influence of extreme emotional disturbance. Rather, his actions were explained by his manipulative and antisocial personality.68

The defense team of William Kunstler, John Russell, and Ron Kuby argued that Khalil had acted in self-defense, based on the perception that he was going to be harmed and possibly killed. Kuby told us that Bernard Goetz, the 1984 “subway killer,” had established the legitimacy of being afraid in New York City, and this was a cornerstone of the defense.69

Khalil testified about his perception of the danger he faced. He detailed the events leading up to the shooting, already described here. He also described that, on the day of the shooting, he saw Tyrone, Ian, and about eight to 10 other boys with them walking on the second floor. Khalil said that when he saw them he just kept walking, but then he saw Tyrone with his hand in his pocket and Ian with his hand “up under his jacket.” At that moment, “I thought my life was in danger or that I was going to be seriously harmed.”70 He noted later in his testimony, “It was well known through Jefferson that Tyrone carried a razor. That they all— basically all their friends carried weapons.”71 Asked to explain why he shot Moore and Sinkler, he said, “At the time I was just—at the moment when I saw them reaching in their pockets, I was just real scared. The day before they had shot at me so there was no doubt in my mind that they would try to harm me today and I just—I just got petrified. I pulled out the gun and I shot twice.”72

Forensic psychiatrist Stephen Teich testified for the defense as to Khalil’s state of mind on the day of the shootings.73 Teich testified, when asked about Khalil’s mental state on February 26, 1992, “My conclusion was that at the time of this incident, Mr. Sumpter perceived that he was in danger and that he was acting in self-defense to prevent himself from



The National Academies | 500 Fifth St. N.W. | Washington, D.C. 20001
Copyright © National Academy of Sciences. All rights reserved.
Terms of Use and Privacy Statement