Science Fair Project Encyclopedia
- For the Canadian actor, see Colin Ferguson (actor)
Trial testimony and notes found on his person indicated that he had planned the shootings in advance as a reaction to a number of personal slights and his perception that people and institutions were against him. Although his paranoid grievances centered on incidents that occurred in New York City and involved people of various races, he particularly focused his amorphous anger on white people. He decided that he wanted suburban Nassau County to be the "venue" for his actions, citing as one reason his desire that his crime not embarrass New York City mayor David Dinkins.
Ferguson boarded the 5:33 pm Hicksville Local commuter train out of New York's Penn Station. After the train entered Nassau County, he drew his legally purchased Ruger P-89 9mm pistol and walked down the aisle of the train, methodically shooting some passengers but not others. Not knowing the nature of the disturbance caused by the shootings, the engineer stopped and held the train at the Merillon Avenue station in Garden City, New York, where Ferguson was wrestled to the floor of the train by three men as he reloaded his weapon his for the third time, and held him until the arrival of police.
Ferguson was convicted on February 17, 1995 of murder for the death of the six passengers who died of their injuries (Denis McCarthy, James Gorycki, Amy LoCicero, Theresa Magtoto, Richard Nettleton and Mikyung Kim) and additional charges for the nineteen who were wounded during the mass murder and received a life sentence for the crimes.
Ferguson's defense counsel had proposed an innovative defense that he had been driven to temporary insanity by black rage, and that he should not be held criminally liable, even though he had committed the killings. However, Ferguson insisted that he had not committed the shootings and chose to represent himself. Ferguson's attorney was quoted in the Associated Press (August 12, 1994) as saying,
- "Without a psychiatric defense, Ferguson has no defense. There was no doubt that he was there, that he fired the weapon, that he would have fired it more if he had not been wrestled to the ground. There is no doubt that Colin Ferguson, if sane, was guilty." Although more than a dozen witnesses testified that he was the shooter, Ferguson argued that he was being framed, maintaining that someone had stolen his gun while he slept and shot the passengers. "This is", he said, "a case of stereotyped victimization of a black man and the subsequent conspiracy to destroy him."
Some argue that Ferguson's attack was a hate crime, pointing to extensive personal writings by him expressing hatred for white people. However, the case was not prosecuted as such, causing many to argue that there is a double standard in the handling of hate crimes.
Before the trial, William M. Kunstler and Ronald L. Kuby attempted to argue that Ferguson was driven to mental illness through years of living in an oppressive and racist society. They argued that Ferguson's insistence on representing himself and not pleading insanity demonstrated his psychological incompetence to stand trial. This position was rejected by the presiding judge Donald E. Belfi . Ferguson was found competent to stand trial at the Nassau County Court .
Ferguson argued that the 93 counts he was charged with were related to the year 1993, and thus the charges had been fabricated by the prosecution. He also argued that a mysterious black man, with the same residential address, had committed the crimes. Later, he argued that a white man had committed the crimes. He called witnesses that identified him as the killer, and spoke to them in such a way as to provoke them to reiterate that identification time and again. Reporters described these moments of Ferguson's defense as "bizarre" and "surreal".
Ferguson was sentenced to 200 years in prison. At the sentencing, Judge Belfi called Ferguson a "selfish, self-righteous coward."
Carolyn McCarthy, whose husband Denis McCarthy was killed by Ferguson, and whose son, Kevin McCarthy, was severely injured, was subsequently elected to the United States Congress on a platform of gun control. Some of Ferguson's other victims and their family members have also become involved in gun control efforts.
The death penalty was established in New York following the massacre.
Most of the regular commuters who used the 5:33 Hicksville Local returned to the train the day after the shootings. Interviewed by the media, a number cited the need to face their fears and the trauma created by the crimes rather than avoid riding their regular train.
The railroad did not discontinue the scheduled train or alter its schedule after the shootings, and the 5:33 Hicksville Local continues to operate as of the end of 2004. The car (M-3 9891) in which the shootings occurred was refurbished, but was renumbered (to 9945) along with its mate (9946).
During the 1993 summer excursion season the LIRR presented a dinner theater mystery, Murder on the Montauk Express, on its premier Friday evening train to the resorts of the Hamptons and Montauk. The play was not renewed after the Ferguson murders.
- "I hope somewhere down the road I will be forgotten...that I will just be able to live the life I had before, a quiet life unknown to the world."
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