Court experts: US youth "sorry" in police slaying trial

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Gabriel Natale Hjorth, from the United States, center, arrives in the courtroom where he is standing trial for the killing of Italian Carabinieri police officer Mario Cerciello Rega, in Rome, Wednesday, July 22, 2020. Two tourists from California are accused of murdering Cerciello during their summer vacation in Italy in July 2019. (Andreas Solaro/Pool via AP)

ROME – Court-appointed psychiatrists testified Wednesday that a 20-year-old California man accused of murdering an Italian police officer has suffered from anxiety and depression and lives with “a sense of chronic anger” but is competent to stand trial.

An evaluation was requested by defense lawyers for Finnegan Lee Elder, who has been on trial in Rome since February for the slaying of a plainclothes Carabinieri officer.

Also charged with the the murder of Vice Brigadier Mario Cerciello is Elder's fellow Californian and former schoolmate Gabriel Natale-Hjorth, 19. The two were visiting Italy as tourists and staying at a hotel near the site of the killing when Cerciello was fatally stabbed almost a year ago.

Both denied wrongdoing and told investigators they thought they were defending themselves from criminals when they encountered Cerciello and another Carabiniere during a planned rendezvous over a drug deal gone bad in the early hours of July 26, 2019.

Cerciello, who was sent to the street meeting with his patrol partner shortly after returning from his honeymoon, was stabbed 11 times. He was hailed as a national hero at his funeral.

Prosecutors alleged that Elder fatally knifed Cerciello and that Natale-Hjorth hid the weapon.

Psychiatrist Vittorio Fineschi testified that at the moment of the slaying, Elder “fully realized what he was doing; he said so himself to us.”

But psychiatrist Stefano Ferracuti said Elder also told them he thought he was defending himself from a "Mafioso,'' a way of describing a criminal from an American point of view,.