The lead prosecutor in the murder trial of Yoselyn Ortega sought to discredit two expert witnesses who testified on behalf of the nanny who is accused of killing two children who were in her care.
Yoselyn Ortega, 55, is accused of killing Lulu and Leo Krim, ages six and two years old on October 25, 2012. Ortega had been in the Krim family’s employ for two years prior to the date when she took the two children into a bathroom and slaughtered them with knives.
Ortega was charged with two counts of first-degree murder. The issue at trial is whether Ortega was too mentally ill at the time of the killings to be held responsible for the crime. In New York, there is a high bar for the insanity defense. To prevail, Ortega’s attorneys must show that she did not understand the consequences of her actions or know right from wrong at the time of the crime. Ortega’s attorneys retained two experts to testify on her behalf, Dr. Karen Rosenbaum and Dr. Phillip Resnick.
Dr. Karen Rosenbaum is a psychiatrist who evaluated Ortega based on Ortega, her family, friends, and neighbors. Dr. Rosenbaum’s report depicted Ortega as a religious woman who suffered from episodes of depression and auditory and visual hallucinations. Dr. Rosenbaum testified that, “She wasn’t in her normal conscious state, where she could control her behavior. . . . She was in a dissociative state and a psychotic state and wasn’t aware of her actions.” Dr. Rosenbaum opined that, at the time of the killings, “auditory hallucinations won over her and she went into an altered state of consciousness.”
Dr. Phillip Resnick, forensic psychologist, opined that Ortega was telling the truth when she said she did not remember stabbing the two children. Resnick testified that Ortega’s amnesia was a symptom of a dissociative episode. He said, “Ortega was psychotic. I mean she was out of touch with reality.” Resnick rejected the prosecutors’ suggestion that Ortega killed the children to spite their mother. He emphasized that those who knew Ortega “talked about how much she loved the children so it makes no sense at all how a woman, even if she were angry with Mrs. Krim, would kill two children she loved. . . . She could have attacked Mrs. Krim. She could have killed Mrs. Krim in anger. But to kill two children she loved out of revenge simply does not add up or make sense.”
Lead prosecutor Stuart Silberg attempted to discredit both experts. He pointed out that Ortega had no documented report of mental illness prior to the killings and that her family only began to report her hallucinations after the crime. Silberg picked apart Dr. Rosenbaum’s analysis of Ortega, searching for inconsistencies and minor misstatements. Silberg questioned why Dr. Rosenbaum had not interviewed a doorman or a building superintendent who had spoken with Ortega immediately before and after the killings took place.
If the jury finds Ortega was insane at the time of the crime, she will be committed to a psychiatric facility. If she is convicted of the crime, she faces life in prison.
Rejecting the testimony of the defense experts, the jury found Ortega guilty of two counts of first-degree murder and two counts of second-degree murder.