In a “horrific, evil conduct” in Times Square in New York City, the prosecution said that Richard Rojas murdered one person and injured almost two dozen others.
A jury concluded on Wednesday that a man who was charged by the prosecution of running down people in Times Square five years ago, killing one tourist and wounding almost two dozen others, was not guilty due to mental illness.
The judge ruled that Richard Rojas, 31, will now be eligible for an open-ended “involuntary mental commitment” rather than a lengthy prison term. Rojas has been diagnosed with schizophrenia and was hearing voices throughout the attack.
The incident left more than 20 people injured, including 18-year-old Alyssa Elsman, who was visiting New York City with her family from Michigan.
Eva, Elsman’s younger sister, testified that she suffered shattered ribs, a collapsed lung, a broken leg, and other injuries while she was just 13 years old.
The Elsman sisters’ mother, Jyll, told the court that it sounded like “somebody just floored it” during the attack and “was so loud.”
“That is the last thing that I remember before everything went black,” she testified last month.
Rojas’s defense attorney, Enrico DeMarco, argued at the trial that his client was “suffering from schizophrenia” and his “mind had deteriorated so much that he lost control.”
“The evidence is going to show he met the criteria for legal insanity,” DeMarco said last month.
He told reporters outside court after the verdict on Wednesday that the jury’s decision was “right and humane.”
“The defendant made a decision that day,” prosecutor Alfred Peterson said during the trial. “He went to the ‘crossroads of the world,’ a high profile place where everyone knows there’s lots and lots of people.”
DeMarco did not immediately respond to a request for comment about the case on Wednesday evening.