On the twelfth day of Michael Tate's murder trial, the final day of testimony, he told the judge that he would not be taking the stand in his not guilty by reason of insanity defense.
“No ma'am” he said to the judge in a flat, monotone voice that sounded surprisingly southern for a 19-year-old raised solely in Colorado foster homes, mental institutions, hospitals, group homes and, for the past three years since he murdered a friend's father, in the Jefferson County jail. Day twelve proceeded with the prosecution's rebuttal of the defense's case and David Kadlec was called to the stand. Kadlec was the final foster parent that Tate would know.
"I hear you go to church," Kadlec remembered Tate telling him for the jury.
"Yeah," Kadlec said.
"Satan's my lord and I don't go to church," Tate then reportedly told him.
Kadlec testified that at the time he felt that he had heard enough to give up on taking Tate in and that he told Tate that if Tate refused to be a part of the family, to attend church with Kadlec, his wife and his two sons, then they could just terminate the interview right then.
But Tate agreed to go to church and moved in with the Kadlec family. The honeymoon only lasted a few weeks though, before Tate made threats to rape his foster mother and one of his foster brothers and kill the whole family.
The Kadlecs kicked Tate out after that.
After Kadlec’s testimony the judge dismissed everyone for an early lunch break, followed by an unsuccessful motion by the defense for a mistrial because Tate was seen by at least three jurors in the hallway while 'cuffed and shackled. Next up were the closing arguments.
"At this point I just want to remind you what this trial is about. It is about the murder of Steven Fitzgerald, a father a husband ... a man with a troubled son that he never gave up on," prosecutor Jacque Russell told the jury. "The past week has been a parade of witnesses from the defendant dating back to when the defendant was an infant, you saw a picture of a very sweet looking blonde-haired blue-eyed boy getting a hug from his potentially adoptive father."
But that same little boy grew up to stab a man so hard, Russell told the jury, that he fractured the Fitzgerald’s ribs and shoved the knife deeper into his body than the length of the blade. Russell proceeded to ask the jury why, if Tate didn't realize what he did was wrong as his insanity plea suggests, did he wear gloves to hide his prints, bring a mask to the murder scene, carry knives, hide knives, hide the gloves and hide the body.
"Why do you need to cover up something that wasn't wrong," Russell asked. "His actions in this case speak louder than words."
Again, due to the closing arguments of the prosecution, the defense unsuccessfully moved for a mistrial, prior to addressing the jury for the final time.
"Psychotic, delusional, bizarre, those are the words that you all have heard over and over in the past weeks of testimony regarding Michael Tate," defense attorney Shawna Geiger told the jury. "He is one of the sickest kids these doctors have ever seen. Michael Tate was fragile, broken, and pieced back together in a way that never made sense."
Geiger focused on the fact that the state doctor who deemed Tate sane at the time of the offense is not a child psychologist despite the fact that Tate was 16 at the time of the offense. Geiger also lined up on an overhead screen for the jury the names of 28 doctors who have reportedly found significant problems with Tate against the lone name of the one state doctor who has determined that Tate manipulates the system to get what he wants, which is currently to stay out of prison.
"Not one of the professionals described him as normal, not one of the professionals can point to a time when Michael was well," Geiger told the jury. "He (the state's doctor) chose to ignore or discount every professional in those twenty volumes of records in order to endorse his own opinion."
With photos from his youth on a power point presentation, Geiger painted Tate as a kid who couldn't follow instructions past one or two steps, which is all that his accomplice, Michael Fitzgerald, needed for someone to do his dirty work. Fitzgerald is the victim's son who is serving 62 years for the murder, something he had plotted and threatened on previous occasions.
"Michael Tate had nothing to pull him back to reality, he listened to the voices, he saw red," Geiger said before pleading with the jury to send Tate to a mental institution, not back to the community and not to prison.
Then it was the prosecution's Michelle Cantin that would have the last words with the jury.
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"He liked Satanism because he liked the evil," Cantin told the jury. "Michael Tate wants you to put him in the state hospital, the same place that has determined that he is not insane, the same place that said that he is sane. Steven Fitzgerald does not have a voice in this courtroom, Steven Fitzgerald met the defendant one time, one time, and at the end, Steven Fitzgerald lay dead in his own garage. Steven Fitzgerald, as he lay dying on the ground on his back, was blugeoned by the defendant five times in his face because the defendant is full of anger and hatred, he said he hates people, maybe he has had an unfortunate life, he can hate anyone he wants, but that does not excuse what he did."
For the first time in the trial, Tate started crying. He pulled at his hair as his attorney, Geiger, comforted him. She is the closest thing to a mother that he has ever known thanks to the past three years that she has been working on his case. And as Geiger told the jury, Tate's fate has been in her hands.
And now it is in their's.
-- Luke Turf