A defense attorney for accused killer Seth P. Lyons said in county court Monday that he will likely raise a psychiatric defense when his client goes on trial next week. Lyons, 21, is charged with second-degree murder in the November 29, 2017 beating death of Anthony Garro Jr. Jury selection for the trial is slated to begin on Monday, September 17.
Garro’s badly beaten and partially nude body was discovered beneath a pile of brush under a bridge spanning the former Catskill Mountain Railroad right of way at Elmendorf Street in midtown Kingston on the morning of the murder. Lyons, who like Garro was homeless at the time, was arrested a few hours later after a police officer canvassing the neighborhood for security camera footage spotted him in blood-spattered clothes a few blocks from the crime scene.
According to police, Lyons would later tell detectives that he attacked Garro, who was sleeping on a couch under the bridge, after smoking crack with another man in the abandoned rail cut. Lyons allegedly told investigators that he discovered his cell phone missing and suspected Garro may have taken it. Lyons allegedly confessed to punching and kicking Garro, stomping his feet against a railroad tie and pelting him with a brick, rocks and tree limbs before stripping him naked and leaving him under the brush pile.
This week, county court Judge Donald Williams held a series of pretrial hearings on evidentiary issues, including the admissibility of Lyons’ statement to police, eyewitness identifications and prosecutor’s ability to introduce evidence of “prior bad acts” in the event Lyons takes the stand.
During the hearing defense attorney Bryan Rounds told the court that he intended to raise a psychiatric defense in the case, but didn’t specify the precise nature of the defense. The most common psychiatric defense is not guilty by reason of “mental disease or defect,” which argues that at the time of the crime the defendant was so impaired by mental illness that they could not form the intent necessary to meet the statutory criteria for guilt. The defense may also argue innocence based on “extreme emotional disturbance.” Under that theory, the defendant acted in an emotional state so extreme as to cause “profound loss of self-control.” To succeed, the extreme emotional disturbance must have a reasonable explanation.
Rounds declined to comment on the case prior to the trial. But he has previously described a police report summarizing Lyons alleged confession as a “one-sided” and “cherry-picked” version of his client’s actual account of the incident under the bridge.
The Sept. 10 hearing also featured testimony from Kingston Police Detective Benny Reyes who recounted interviewing John Lally, the man who Lyons was allegedly hanging out with in the railroad cut the night of the murder. In a recording of the interview, which took place in the parking lot of a Sunoco gas station at the corner of Broadway and Franklin streets, Lally identifies Lyons based on a photocopy of the suspect’s driver’s license. Lally told Reyes that he had hung out and smoked crack with Lyons previously. The morning of the murder, Lally said he had been present with Lyons and Garro under the bridge and at the Sunoco station but, he said, he left after Lyons became angry and combative. On the recording, portions of which were played at the hearing, Lally said that Lyons “wanted to kill himself” and said “all kinds of crazy stuff” on the morning of the murder.
“He’s crying one minute, the next minute he’s my friend drinking beer,” Lally tells Reyes. “The next minute he wants to fight me.”