Chism appeal moves forward, as 2014 case remains open

In the previous month, the state’s highest court officially added the lawsuit to its list of cases to be heard, advancing Philip Chism’s legal challenge, almost six years following his conviction for the most severe form of homicide, sexual assault, and theft in the murder of Colleen Ritzer, a teacher at Danvers High School in 2013.

Despite suffering from a mental or brain disorder, Chism, as a longtime attorney, continues to pursue his theory that he remains open to. However, there is another pending case in 2014 involving an attempted murder in the Department of Youth Services.

Attorney John Osler stated during a brief hearing on Wednesday in Suffolk Juvenile Court in Dorchester that the expert, whose name was not disclosed by Osler, will re-examine the MRI data. Osler has enlisted the help of an expert to assess Chism’s brain MRI.

Currently, he is serving a 40-year life sentence at Souza-Baranowski prison, known as the “Supermax” facility in Lancaster, the state’s center for correctional institutions. He was tried as an adult and found guilty following a trial in 2015. On the afternoon of October 2013, he murdered and raped 24-year-old math teacher Ritzer, who was also a freshman at Danvers High School and was only 14 years old at the time, as determined by the jury.

In June 2014, Chism purportedly assaulted and strangled a woman employee at the DYS center in Dorchester while awaiting trial in Ritzer’s demise. Prosecutors assert he ambushed her and tried to pierce her with a writing implement.

Osler informed Judge Helen Brown-Bryant that the re-evaluation is anticipated to be finalized by the conclusion of October.

Osler declared that a document will be furnished, which must be delivered to attorneys in Suffolk County, by the middle of November.

The hearing is provisionally set for the start of March. Brown-Bryant will hold a hearing to evaluate whether the report would be acceptable as evidence in court following that.

During his 2015 trial, Denise Regan, co-counsel, and Osler attempted to convince Judge David Lowy by allowing the testimony of two witnesses who were conducting a study on the long-range brain development of children, focusing on the potential presence of abnormality or disorder.

In research subjects identified with schizophrenia or traumatic brain damage, attributes of Chism’s brain, observed on an MRI conducted shortly prior to his legal proceeding, were also observed by Dr. Ted Satterthwaite, a neurologist and psychiatrist at the University of Pennsylvania, and neuropsychologist Ruben Gur, who would have provided testimony.

Jurors could potentially misinterpret the testimony, as experts were not allowed to testify about Chism’s actual diagnosis, following a mid-trial hearing, according to Lowy.

Lowy, who currently sits on the Supreme Judicial Court, will not participate in any proceedings related to Chism’s appeal, just like other justices who presided over the trials.

As per the case docket, the briefs are not required until the earliest possible time at the end of this year. However, the formal appeal was submitted to the SJC on Aug. 13. In these written arguments, Chism’s attorneys for the appeal, Benjamin Brooks and Michael Schneider, will present their reasons for the appeal, and subsequently, a prosecutor will be given an opportunity to provide a response.

However, all convictions for first-degree murder in Massachusetts are given the opportunity to appeal before the SJC.

Prior to submitting the appeal, it was necessary to compile approximately 65 volumes of transcripts for the court, which encompassed the duration of the trial and the count of pretrial proceedings.

Julie Manganis, the reporter covering legal proceedings, can be contacted at 978-338-2521, via email at jmanganis@salemnews.Com, or on Twitter at @SNJulieManganis.