New York nanny convicted in stabbing deaths of two young children

NEW YORK (Reuters) - A New York nanny was found guilty of murder on Wednesday in the 2012 stabbing deaths of two children in her care at their luxury Manhattan apartment, according to the Manhattan district attorney's office.

A jury unanimously rejected the insanity defense of Yoselyn Ortega, 55, whose lawyer said she hallucinated a devil's order "to kill the children and herself" when she plunged a kitchen knife into Lucia Krim, 6, nicknamed Lulu, and her brother Leo, 2, and left their bloody bodies in a bathtub.

The Oct. 25, 2012 killings were discovered when Marina Krim, returned to the family's Upper West Side apartment to find her children dead and their nanny standing over them stabbing a knife into her own neck. Krim had returned home with the children's 3-year-old sister, Nessie, after Ortega failed to appear with the other children at Lulu's dance class.

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Ortega was charged with two counts each of first- and second-degree murder, punishable by a maximum sentence of life in prison. A verdict of not guilty by reason of insanity could have resulted in Ortega spending the rest of her life in a psychiatric facility.

Insanity defenses rarely succeed in New York, where proving mental illness is not enough to find a defendant not responsible by reason of mental disease or defect. Defense attorneys must prove that the suspect could not understand the consequences of his or her actions.

In the last decade, only six people were cleared of criminal charges as a result of claiming an insanity defense out of 5,111 murder cases tried between 2007 and 2016 in New York, according to Janine Kava, spokeswoman for the state Division of Criminal Justice Services. The state does not track how often the defense is raised, she said.

During the trial at state Supreme Court in Manhattan, Ortega's lawyers argue she was mentally incapable of intending to kill and too psychotic to understand her actions.

But prosecutors said the evidence showed she had thought through her actions and thus understood the consequences, including grabbing Leo from behind and slitting his neck so he would not fight back as his sister had.

They said Ortega's attack was prompted by her anger at being asked to work too hard. Ortega, who had brought her 17-year-old son from the Dominican Republic and enrolled him in a private school, was overwhelmed by financial concerns and tuition costs, they said.

(Reporting by Barbara Goldberg and Joseph Ax; Editing by Chris Reese and Susan Thomas)