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updated: 9/14/2012 9:59 AM

Judge to rule on stress disorder testimony in Wheaton murder trial

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  • Michael Delaney

      Michael Delaney

 

Editor's note: Story updated at 9:48 a.m. Friday, Sept. 14, to correct name of victim.


After he witnessed a military accident that left eight dead and more than 150 injured, Michael Delaney developed "hyper-arousal and overreaction to perceived threats," his attorneys say.

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Now, a DuPage County judge must decide whether that's relevant to his murder case.

Delaney is accused of fatally stabbing neighbor Michael Scalzo during a June 2009 confrontation outside the victim's apartment building on Crescent Avenue in Wheaton. At his upcoming trial, defense attorneys want Judge Daniel Guerin to allow testimony that post-traumatic stress disorder factored into the killing.

Assistant Public Defender Brian Jacbos said a psychologist is prepared to testify the disorder "affects the way (Delaney) perceives things happening" and largely influenced his actions the day of the slaying.

He said the defense would seek a lesser conviction of second-degree murder because Delaney believed he was acting in self-defense.

"Even if he wasn't defending himself, he believed he was defending himself," Jacobs argued Thursday.

But prosecutors contend the diagnosis is irrelevant -- and possibly the result of malingering by Delaney, whom they say has tried unsuccessfully to get disability benefits for the condition for 26 years.

"It's our position that (the doctor's) opinion rests on the defendant's version of events," Assistant State's Attorney Tim Diamond said in court. "It's essentially saying, 'Don't blame Mr. Delaney; blame PTSD.'"

Delaney, a 49-year-old Army veteran, says he was traumatized after taking part in Operation Gallant Eagle, a 1982 military exercise in the Mojave Desert of California that reportedly left three soldiers and five paratroopers dead. But prosecutors said he also cites a car accident he was involved in as a teen and a fear of parachuting as causes of his diagnosis.

Delaney is accused of committing the murder about a week after his girlfriend dumped him.

Diamond said Delaney threatened the woman's new boyfriend, who lived in an apartment nearby, and carved "will kill" on the door. Scalzo, who had given refuge to the woman in a garage where he had been working, was slain when he confronted Delaney about the threats.

Prosecutors said Delaney repeatedly stabbed Scalzo, 40, after attacking him and trading punches. The defense, meanwhile, contends Scalzo was the aggressor and Delaney overreacted.

"He will testify the victim came over and attacked him," Jacobs said.

Guerin didn't issue a ruling Thursday but indicated he would do so at Delaney's next court appearance on Sept. 24.

A trial date has not been set.

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