State of WA v. Kevin Cruz No. 00-1-00284-6 SEA

Defense Attorney:
Eric W. Lindell
Lindell Law Offices, PLLC
8015 SE 28th St.
Mercer Island, WA. 98040
tel. (206) 230-4922
fax. (206) 230-4982

Defense Expert:
Dr. Harold J. Bursztajn
Associate Clinical Professor, co-Director
Program in Psychiatry & the Law
96 Larchwood Drive
Cambridge, MA 02138
617-492-8366 email:


Defendant Cruz was charged with two counts of aggravated first degree murder and two counts of attempted murder for shooting four men on November 3, 1999at the Northlake Shipyard in the Freemont District of Seattle. The prosecution alleged that Kevin walked into the shipyard office and opened fire, hitting all 4 men in the office. He then dumped the murder weapon in some bushes and fled the scene. Several weeks later, a bike rider discovered the gun. Police traced the gun to Kevin and he was ultimately identified by some witnesses.

Prior to the shooting, in 1998, Kevin had been employed at the Northlake Shipyard for approximately 5 months. The prosecution attempted to portray Kevin as having a grudge against the shipyard for terminating some benefits he was to receive from a minor on the job injury.

Washington uses a bifurcated trial process in death penalty cases. During the guilt phase of Kevin's trial Defense Attorney worked primarily to prepare jurors to accept the mental health evidence that Dr. Bursztajn planned on presenting at the penalty phase of the trial.

Kevin was 30 years old at the time of the shootings. Testimony was offered that Kevin lived a truly tragic life. He had suffered years and years of physical and psychological abuse at the hands of his step-father. As a child Kevin was beaten several times a week by his step-father.

Kevin began to exhibit signs of mental illness approximately a decade before the shootings. Over the next several years he informed acquaintances he was being followed, people were listening to him, he had auditory hallucinations and believed he could speak to dead people. At the time he was arrested for the shootings, the walls of his bedroom were lined with foil. He was suffering a variety of symptoms consistent with one of schizophrenic disorders.

At the penalty phase of the hearing, testimony was presented from Cruz' mother, brother, sister, two neighbors, the head of the Washington State Corrections system, a psychologist (to interpret some standardized tests) and Dr. Harold J. Bursztajn.

Attorney Lindell, the defense attorney, and Dr. Bursztajn were able to effectively present evidence of Kevin's mental illness in a manner jurors could easily understand. Dr Bursztajn was able to provide them with some commonsense answers and place many of Kevin's actions in the context of mental illness.

At the time of the trial the movie, A Beautiful Mind, was extremely popular. Dr. Bursztajn even referred to it during the trial.

Dr. Bursztajn testifies that Kevin's mental illness involved severe neuropsychiatric impairments which diminished Kevin's mental capacity. He states that Kevin's mental capacity at the time of the killings was so diminished that it constitutes eligibility for a lower sentence. After a five month trial, the jury in Kevin's case was out approximately 4 hours before deciding to spare Kevin's life.