Jury deliberates murder charges against Nathaniel Fujita, accused of killing ex-girlfriend in Wayland
WOBURN - Jurors began deliberating murder charges Tuesday against 20-year-old Nathaniel Fujita, accused of killing his high school sweetheart, after lawyers on both sides delivered impassioned closing arguments in Middlesex Superior Court.
Fujita is accused of luring 18-year-old Lauren Astley to his Wayland home on July 3, 2011, telling her to park out of sight, and then battering, strangling and slashing her to death and dumping her body in a marsh.
“I understand that this is a difficult case for all of you, because of the senselessness of this, the enormity of the tragedy, and because of that, every fiber of your being probably says somebody must be convicted for this… somebody must pay,” said defense attorney William Sullivan, who argued first. “Well ladies and gentlemen, you swore an oath… that you would not let those feelings get in the way.”
Fujita was psychotic at the time of the killing, said Sullivan, and the only correct verdict is to find him not criminally responsible because of mental illness.
But prosecutor Lisa McGovern said Fujita’s actions that night were those of a man acting deliberately and purposefully, with premeditation and extreme cruelty.
“He was as sane in the early evening hours of Sunday, July 3, 2011, when he killed Lauren Astley, as he was at just about the same time of the evening the night before killing Lauren Astley, on Saturday, July 2, when he was eating ice cream in Mashpee,” said Sullivan.
At one point during her closing argument, McGovern dropped to her knees, the bungee cord allegedly used to strangle Asltey wrapped around her throat, and asked the jury to think of the scratches on her knees and the cuts on her throat.
“There is no psychosis fairy who magically sprinkles a dose of psychosis on the defendant,” she said.
The courtroom was so packed that officials opened another room for overflow seating.
Judge Peter Lauriat spent an hour and a half giving instructions to the jury before the panel began deliberations at around 3:45 p.m.; it ended for the day at 4 p.m. and will return Wednesday.
Laureat said the jury can consider first-degree murder, which carries a penalty of life in prison without parole, if it determines that Fujita killed Astley with premeditation or with extreme atrocity or cruelty. The jury can also consider second-degree murder, which imposes life in prison with the possibility of parole after 15 years, the judge said.
Fujita can also be found not guilty because of lack of criminal responsibility, Laureat said. In that case, the court can order Fujita committed to a mental health facility or Bridgewater State Hospital as long as he is mentally ill and his discharge would be a serious threat to the community. The order of commitment would be regularly reviewed.
Fujita faces charges of first-degree murder, two counts of assault and battery with a dangerous weapon, and one count of assault and battery.
Since testimony began on Feb. 13, the prosecution called 31 witnesses. The defense called two, Fujita’s aunt and a forensic psychiatrist who interviewed him at his lawyer’s request.
Evan Allen can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.