David Berkowitz derailed his sentencing for the 'Son of Sam' murders by fighting with his guards and then entering the courtroom chanting that the last woman he murdered was "a whore."
Berkowitz's behavior forced embarrassed judges and district attorneys to agree to his defense attorneys request for a postponement of sentencing for a new psychiatric examination.
"Stacy was a whore, Stacy was a whore," Berkowitz chanted, in the sing-song with which children have taunted one another on playgrounds for generations, as he came into the courtroom.
Neysa Moskowitz, the mother of Son of Sam's last victim, Stacy, shouted back across the packed Brooklyn courtroom: "You animal. How dare you say that."
Robert Violante, who was sitting in a parked car with Stacy, 20, last July 31 and was partially blinded by the bullets from Berkowitz's 44-cal. revolver, leaped to his feet and yelled at Berkowitz: "You creep, you should get killed."
The swarm of blue-uniformed court officers who had entered in a knot around the handcuffed defendant dragged him from the courtroom, but not until he broke off his chant (in which he pronounced whore as if it rhymed with lure) to shout at Neysa Moskowitz: "That's right. That's right. I'd kill her again. I'd kill them all again."
The self-described Son of Sam murdered six and wounded seven in a year-long series of late night and early morning shootings, mostly aimed at young women, several of them sitting in parked cars with their dates.
Berkowitz's courtroom outburst lasted only seconds and came almost 90 minutes after he scuffled with court officers just as they began to bring him to the courtroom from the office of Chief Court Officer Don Ruocco.
All witnesses to the melee were under judges' order not to describe what Berkowitz did or said, but it was reliably reported that he trigged the fight by attempting to jump through Ruocco's seventh story window. The window has no bars, but Ruocco said it is double-panned and that he doubts a man could crash through it.
Berkowitz was subdued quickly and his handcuffs were chained to his belt. Although court authorities waited 90 minutes before again attempting to bring him into the courtroom, he was disheveled, wide-eyed and chanting when he did appear.
After further conferences in chambers, it was decided not to chain and gag Berkowitz for another appearance. Instead, by agreement of the Brooklyn, Bronx and Queens judges - who are involved because Son of Sam killed in those three boroughs of New York City - sentencing was postponed until June 12. Another psychiatric examination was ordered and participants in yesterday's backstage events were placed under gag orders by the judges.
Berkowitz's outburst was embarrassing to a legal system that has found him mentally competent to stand trial. Two weeks ago, on his first day in court, Berkowitz was eagerly coopererative as he answered about 150 questions from the three judges in submitting his series of guilty pleas.
By his actions yesterday, Berkowitz raised the question of whether he was temporarily sane two weeks ago or temporarily insane yesterday.
Only Bronx District Attorney Mario Merola objected to postponing the sentencing. He bluntly told Judge William Kapelman that he had seen Kapelman sentence many defendants who had caused similar disturbances. Merola said that only the notoriety of the Son of Sam case was causing a postponment.
In granting the postponement, Judge Joseph Corso read from the latest psychiatric report on Berkowitz, this one submitted to the court last Friday by Dr. Daniel Schwartz of Kings County Hospital.
"When asked what he [Berkowitz] thinks will happen in court, his mood changes once again," Corso read to the courtroom from Schwartz's report. "Now his face lights up and his eyes twinkle as he replies: 'I know, but I'm not telling.'" Schwartz asked Berkowitz whether he had in mind something that the psychiatrist and Judge Corso didn't know about and Berkowitz replied:
Brooklyn District Attorney Eugene Gold and Merola seemed convinced that since there had been advance warning from Berkowitz his behavior was calculated and did not indicate insanity.
Berkowitz's lawyers, Henry Stern and Ira Jultak, have argued throughout the case that their client has a strong insanity defense and they are appealing the acceptance of his guilty pleas, which were netered by Berkowitz against his councils' advice.
The maximum sentence for second-degree murder is 25 years to life in prison. The terms for the six murders would run concurrently and Berkowitz, 24, would be eligible for parole when he is 49.
Neysa Moskowitz, who has held a press conference and in interviews has said she would like to get her fingers on Berkowitz's eyeballs and that the law does not provide sufficient punishment for Son of Sam, left the courtroom after Berkowitz's appearance, but soon returned.
Violante collapsed in tears with his head on his forearms and was comforted by friends.
As Corso granted the postponement, Daniel Carrique, a friend of the Moskowitz family, stood up and shouted: "It's not justice. How about the 13 [victim's] families? How much do you think they can?"
Friends and relatives of the victims burst into applause. An angry Corso expelled Carrique and threatened to clear the courtroom if there were any other outbursts.
The two court officers injured in the brawl with Berkowitz were treated at Long Island college hospital. One had a torn ligament in his leg and the other had reportedly been bitten in the arm by the handcuffed Berkowitz.
Berkowitz was uninjured, Ruocco said.