WAUKESHA, Wis. (CN) - Two Wisconsin girls stabbed their friend 19 times because they believed they were helping their families, an attorney told the court Monday, in a bid to reduce first-degree attempted murder charges.
Anissa Weier and Morgan Geyser were in court on Presidents Day over their May 31, 2014, stabbing of Payton Leutner, whom they lured into the woods the morning after a sleepover. All three children were 12 years old.
Police picked Weier and Geyser within hours of the stabbing, and the pair were charged as adults with attempted homicide.
A judge deemed the girls competent to stand trial late last year, despite evidence that the girls stabbed their friend to appease an online boogeyman called Slenderman whom they believed had a mansion in Nicolet National Park.
Prosecutors told the court that the girls had planned the stabbing for months.
At Monday's hearing, the court viewed a recording of Weier's interview with Detective Michelle Trussoni after her arrest.
In the interview, Weier says Geyser told her that she had made a deal with Slenderman to kill Leutner.
"I was told if I didn't do something for someone that my family would be in danger," Weier said.
"I was really scared, knowing that Slender could kill my whole family in 3 seconds," a sobbing Weier says later on in the video.
In Geyser's interview, video of which was also shown in court, she repeatedly called the stabbing "necessary," but claimed Weier was the one who had made the deal with Slenderman. She said Slenderman had chosen Leutner as the victim.
Geyser's attorney, Anthony Cotton, submitted notebook pages obtained in a search of his client's locker by forensic interviewer Shelly Fisher, who spoke with Leutner in early June.
The notebook contained many drawings of Slenderman and other fictional characters. Some included the phrases "Help never comes," "Can't run" and "Safer dead."
With Geyser writing on a legal pad throughout the hearing, Cotton told reporters after the hearing that she was just "scribbling," and that the "nonsense" did not readily resemble the drawings from her notebook.
Fisher has testified that Leutner said Geyser apologized before stabbing her. When she asked Geyser to stop, Geyser said she had to continue in order "to save [Leutner's] life."
Weier's attorney, Joseph Smith Jr., emphasized Geyser's role in the stabbing, repeatedly asking police officers and interviewers to confirm Geyser had brought the knife from her house, directed Weier and Leutner's movements, and sat on Leutner's legs as she stabbed her.
Cotton said in his opening statements that Geyser's stabbing of Leutner was "unnecessary defensive force," a mitigating circumstance that exists when the alleged assailant believes harm is imminent and acts.
"She believed in Slenderman," Cotton told the court. "It's the reason why this case happened."
If the court accepts the perceived threat as a mitigating circumstance, the charge reduces from first- to second-degree intentional attempted homicide. Adult courts do not have automatic jurisdiction over such cases when the accused is a minor over the age of 10.
The charges would, in that case, be dismissed, and the girls would likely be bound over pending charges being filed in juvenile court.
If Judge Michael Bohren sets the case for trial, however, the defense will move for a reverse-waiver hearing, another opportunity to send the case back to juvenile court.
Cotton told reporters the judge would find independently in each girl's case, possibly sending one to juvenile court but retaining the other.
The state rested just after 3 p.m. on Monday. The defense is scheduled to call its witnesses Tuesday, which will include a private investigator and a sheriff from Washington County, where Geyser is being held, Cotton told reporters after the hearing.
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