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WARREN Lawyers summarize cases in murder trial



Published: Sat, June 16, 2001 @ 12:00 a.m.



The judge is expected to rule on the case Tuesday.

By STEPHEN SIFF

VINDICATOR TRUMBULL STAFF

WARREN -- Phil Mike killed Joe Furda only because Mike thought the 40-year-old Youngstown man was a clone who was going to replace him, Mike's defense lawyer told Judge John Stuard in closing arguments of the weeklong murder trial.

"He may be psychotic, but he is not stupid," Atty. James Lewis told the judge, who is deciding the case without a jury. "The delusion is based on clones, drones, cyborgs ... and angels, and it is not a matter that they are friendly."

Mike, 36, of Liberty, has pleaded innocent by reason of insanity to the Feb. 23, 2000, homicide of Furda in a wooded area off Belmont Avenue in Liberty.

Defense argument: Mike's lawyer presented a scenario in which his client was deeply enmeshed in delusion when he killed a man he had just met in a bar. The two had discussed clones as they drove in Mike's car, and Mike became convinced that Furda was one, Lewis said.

Mike already believed that clones had replaced his family, and he expected that he would be exonerated from the killing when police discovered mechanical parts in his victim and found that the body's DNA matched Mike's own, Lewis said.

"I thought he was a clone, I had to kill him before he killed me," the lawyer quoted from an interview his client had with a psychologist soon after the killing.

Mike first tried to arrest Furda, whose blood-alcohol content was later found to be five times the legal limit for driving, using his authority as a "security officer" for a group called "Other Planetary Life and Entities," Lewis said.

Lewis argued that if Mike had intended to kill Furda, he would have used the loaded .32-caliber handgun that was found in his car, or run him through with the 3-foot sword recovered by police. Furda was found with his face crushed, the back of his neck deeply chopped and bones in his throat broken.

Although Mike told psychologists that he did not feel threatened by clones, Mike's lawyer said his client was just telling them what he thought they wanted to hear.

A letter he wrote to Gov. Bob Taft asking for a license to kill clones showed that he feared them, Lewis said.

Prosecution: The prosecution contends that Mike killed Furda not because he thought the man was a clone but as a result of a fight over something else. Prosecutors also say that Mike knew what he was doing was wrong.

For an insanity plea to be successful, the defense must show by a preponderance of the evidence not only that the defendant was insane, but that he or she did not know the difference between right and wrong.

"Even though the defendant may suffer from a severe mental disease, he must still be held accountable under the law," said Ken Bailey, one of the assistant county prosecutors trying the case.

In his closing statements, Bailey argued that Mike would not have lied to police about what he was doing in the woods or how he had come by Furda's wallet if he did not know he had done something wrong.

"Lying is an indication of knowledge of guilt," Bailey said.

Judge Stuard said he expected to issue a verdict on the case Tuesday.

siff@vindy.com




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