Suspect in Brockton killing spree needs mental care, lawyer says

By Eric Moskowitz
Globe Staff / September 27, 2009

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The attorney for a Brockton man accused of killing two people and raping a third while fueled by white supremacist beliefs condemned the state yesterday, saying it is not providing the mental health care Keith Luke needs.

The Brockton Enterprise reported yesterday that Luke had overdosed on pills obtained from other inmates in an apparent suicide attempt, and had been transferred from Plymouth County House of Correction to Lemuel Shattuck Hospital, the Boston facility that provides emergency medical care to state and county inmates and detainees.

“This was an incident that was long in the making,’’ said Joseph F. Krowski Jr., Luke’s lawyer. “I knew the conditions that he was being held in in Plymouth were exacerbating an already, what I would consider, a mental state that was in the balance.’’

A spokeswoman for the state Department of Mental Health did not return calls seeking comment yesterday. John Birtwell, a spokesman for Plymouth Sheriff Joseph D. McDonald Jr., said he could not discuss Luke’s status other than to confirm that he is in county custody, which he said could mean either the Plymouth facility or the Boston hospital.

Since Luke’s first court appearance for what police and prosecutors said was a racially motivated rampage in Brockton in January in which he murdered two Cape Verdean residents and shot and raped a third, Krowski has lobbied unsuccessfully for the 23-year-old to be housed in Bridgewater State Hospital, citing a history of mental illness.

Instead, Luke - whose case is in the discovery process before trial - is in what Krowski described as 23-hour-a-day solitary lockdown in Plymouth.

Krowski said Luke was sent briefly to Bridgewater earlier this year after county authorities considered him a suicide threat but was returned to Plymouth after a psychiatric review. Later, he went to Bridgewater for a competency evaluation but was returned to the county facility several weeks later, said Krowski. He said he is considering suing the state “to get the relief that we need.’’

“I’d rather have him go to Guantanamo than Plymouth because, quite frankly, I think it would be an upgrade,’’ Krowski said. He blamed the financially strapped Department of Mental Health, not the Plymouth County facility, saying DMH “had failed Keith Luke his entire life.’’

Krowski said he learned of Luke’s reported overdose from the Enterprise story, which cited unnamed sources. He said officials could only confirm that he had been sent to Shattuck, citing a need for confidentiality, and that he would have to visit after the weekend to learn more.

“I’m going to assess the situation. I’m going to keep fighting to get him into the place that can deal with the issues that he is presenting,’’ he said. “I fully realize he’s public enemy number one, but my job is to fight for him . . . [to make] sure that he’s treated humanely, with all of the constitutional rights that every one of us deserves.’’