NEW YORK (Reuters) - A young model was either insane, or a calculating, quick-thinking murderer who feigned mental illness when he killed and castrated his lover, a prominent Portuguese journalist, in their New York hotel room last year, a jury heard on Wednesday.
No one disputes that Renato Seabra, 22, killed Carlos Castro, 65, in January 2011. Seabra pleaded not guilty by reason of insanity to a charge of second degree murder, and his trial reached closing arguments at Manhattan criminal court.
David Touger, one of Seabra’s lawyers, even vigorously re-enacted Seabra’s attack for the jury, waving over his head the smashed computer monitor and wine bottle with which Seabra bludgeoned Castro before wielding the corkscrew, its spike pointing towards jurors, used to sever Castro’s testicles.
“You do not need an expert to tell you this is psychotic behavior,” Touger told the jury. More than 20 doctors have since diagnosed Seabra with bipolar disorder, he said.
It was impossible that “a 21-year-old kid from a small town in Portugal” could deceive more than a dozen New York City psychiatrists from hospitals and the prison system, or even be aware that insanity was a possible defense, Touger said.
Seabra was not responsible for the killing because he did not know what he was doing was wrong, believing instead he was on a God-ordained mission to slay the “demon” of homosexuality that he saw in Castro, the lawyer said.
“What better evidence do you need than him ripping out the testicles of someone, picking them up and wiping the blood on himself,” Touger said. “A normal person who has control of his thoughts would not do any of that.”
Touger noted that Seabra spent time dragging the corpse to different parts of the room before showering, changing into a smart suit and purple tie, and gelling his hair before leaving the room at the Intercontinental Hotel near Times Square.
“Most people fleeing from a crime don’t dress for the occasion,” Touger said. “They just flee.”
Seabra was found by police at a Manhattan hospital where he had checked in under his real name after arriving by taxi, further evidence, Touger said, that he had not even thought of fleeing.
But Maxine Rosenthal, the lead prosecutor, told jurors this was Seabra’s “Plan B”, describing him as an opportunist who was “playing the role of the loving boyfriend” to exploit Castro’s wealth and connections.
Castro, who met Seabra through Facebook, was a gay-rights activist and journalist, writing about fashion and society for Diario de Noticias, 24 Horas and Correio de Manha.
As their relationship dissolved into fierce arguments during their stay in New York, Seabra became enraged, she told the jury.
After killing Castro, Seabra disconnected the room phone, dismantled Castro’s cellphone, and put the “Do Not Disturb” sign on the door as he left to buy him more time, she said. He took with him about $1,600 from Castro’s wallet and their flight itinerary, fully intending to flee, she said.
“That shows presence of mind, it is deliberate action and is inconsistent with delusion,” she said. As he left, Seabra saw in the lobby a close friend of Castro’s who had arrived worried after her friend failed to respond to numerous phone calls that day.
He then realized the body would be discovered sooner than he had hoped, Rosenthal said, and was ashamed to think his mother and friends would discover he had been having sex with men.
“He is thinking of Plan B, and what is that plan? ‘Take me to a hospital,'” she said.
Seabra has been absent from hearings for more than a week. His lawyers said they could not disclose why. His mother and Castro’s sister attended the hearing, sitting on opposite sides of the courtroom.
The jury was expected to begin deliberating on Thursday after prosecutors finish their closing arguments.
Editing by Daniel Trotta and Eric Walsh