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Philip Chism jury selection delayed over competency questions

After three days of jury selection, Chism’s defense attorneys raised issues about their client’s ability to stand trial.

Phillip Chism with his attorney Denise Regan during a January 2014 court hearing.

Questions about the competency of a 16-year-old boy facing murder and rape charges delayed jury selection for his trial Tuesday in Salem Superior Court.

According to reporters in the courtroom, defense attorney Denise Regan questioned whether Philip Chism is competent to stand trial.

Chism was 14 years old when he was arrested in October 2013 for the rape and murder of his 24-year-old Danvers High School teacher, Colleen Ritzer. He has pleaded not guilty to charges of first-degree murder, armed robbery and two counts of rape.

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Salem News reporter Julie Manganis tweeted from the courtroom that a doctor said Chism was on the floor banging his head, and that it wasn’t safe to go in the room with him.

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Chism was in court for three days of jury selection last week without incident. His attorneys have hinted at an insanity defense for their client, who is being prosecuted as an adult.

Competency means that Chism understands the proceedings against him and can assist his attorneys at trial. If Chism is found not competent, the trial would be postponed and he would be held until that status changes.

It is different from finding a defendant not guilty by reason of insanity, which means the person had a mental disease or defect and did not understand that the crime committed was wrong.

The trial is expected to last about six weeks.

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