A lawyer for a Portuguese model charged with castrating and killing a TV journalist said Friday he hoped to decide within three weeks whether to pursue a psychiatric defense in the bloody attack in a Times Square hotel room.
A psychiatrist is due to evaluate Renato Seabra next week for his defense, attorney David Touger said after a brief court session. Seabra, wearing a gray suit his mother had brought to him in a psychiatric hospital jail ward, said nothing as an interpreter helped him follow the session in Manhattan state court.
"For a man charged with murder in the second degree, who's never been in jail or in trouble in his life, I'd say he's doing OK," Touger said afterward. "But that's under the circumstances."
Seabra, a 21-year-old former contestant on a Portuguese talent-search show, has pleaded not guilty to murder in Carlos Castro's Jan. 7 death. Castro, a 65-year-old Portuguese TV personality and writer, was found dead, naked and bloodied in a room they were sharing.
Seabra later told police he had choked Castro, stabbed him with a corkscrew in his face and groin, rammed a computer monitor into his head and stomped on his face after an argument, according to a court document.
Friends said the two were a couple, but Seabra's mother has said they weren't.
While no decisions have been made about a psychiatric defense in Seabra's case, there are two possibilities.
One is an insanity defense, in which a defendant can be acquitted and sent to a mental hospital if he can establish that he was so mentally ill when committing a crime that he didn't know it was wrong. New York state law also allows some murder defendants to argue they were overcome by "extreme emotional disturbance"; if successful, that defense leads to a conviction on the lesser charge of manslaughter.
In the meantime, Seabra's lawyer has asked a judge to keep prosecutors from using the statements police say he made to them. Prosecutors said in papers filed Friday that the statements were obtained legally and should be allowed at a potential trial. A judge may issue a decision on Seabra's next court date, April 29.
Meanwhile, Seabra remains held without bail in a hospital, where relatives and friends have been visiting him, Touger said. Seabra has an interpreter at times, and "he's kind of getting enough English that he can communicate" with doctors, his lawyer said.
Seabra is from Cantanhede, in central Portugal. He was a contestant last year on "A Procura Do Sonho," or "Pursuit of a Dream," a Portuguese TV show that hunts for modeling talent. He didn't win but did get a modeling contract with an agency founded by fashion designer Fatima Lopes, who developed the show and was a judge on it.
If convicted of murder, he could face up to life in prison.