Homeless Woman Found Not Guilty by Reason of Insanity in Fatal Fire
Posted Oct 02 2008 6:16pm
A homeless woman charged with starting an arson fire that killed four people in a Chicago apartment building last year was found not guilty Friday by reason of insanity. Mary Smith, aged 51, had been accused of starting debris on fire to keep warm in a stairwell of an apartment building on March 10. She was charged with four counts of first-degree murder and one count of aggravated arson and, after a three-day trial, Cook County Circuit Court Judge James ordered her transfer to a mental-health facility where she will be
Evidence in the case included a videotape of an interview
with police in which Smith initially denied starting the fire, but later admitted to using matches to ignite debris,
including a dollar bill. acqueline Ross, Smith's defense attorney, said
of the verdict: "It doesn't mean she didn't do it, [but] she was unable to
appreciate the criminality of what she was doing." " [The judge] did
what was right in this case," Ross said. "It's just very tragic.
Mary's family is distraught."
Dr. Peter Lourgos, a forensic psychiatrist with the county
court, testified for the defense and said Smith did not comprehend her acts to
be criminal. He said he based his opinion on her long schizophrenic history and
the videotape of her interview with police. Her lawyer contended that Smith was
legally insane when the fire occurred and continues to suffer from severe
mental illness. In remarks to the judge Thursday, Ross did not address whether
Smith started the fire but instead focused on her mental state.