Murder Trial: Opening Arguments Heard in Anya Johnston’s Second-Degree Murder Case

NEW YORK – The second-degree murder trial of Anya Johnston, 29, for the stabbing death of her Upper West Side neighbor Susan Trott, 70, began with opening arguments in Manhattan on Friday.

Defense attorney Jeremy Schneider made a strong case, arguing that Johnston should not be held responsible for Trott’s death due to her history of mental illness. Schneider detailed Johnston’s challenging upbringing, including being born prematurely in Russia and spending time in an orphanage before being adopted by Isabel Johnston and brought to New York. He emphasized her struggles with mental illness, including suicide attempts, hospitalizations, and medication non-compliance in the months leading up to Trott’s murder.

Under New York law, Schneider asserted an insanity defense, aiming to convince jurors that Johnston’s mental state at the time of the incident absolved her of responsibility. On the other hand, Assistant District Attorney Hannah Yu pushed for Johnston’s guilt, citing evidence of Johnston’s premeditation and capacity to understand the consequences of her actions.

During initial testimony, prosecutors presented evidence of the gruesome crime scene, including video and photo evidence of Trott’s blood-soaked apartment, as well as testimonies from NYPD officers and forensic experts.

The trial, expected to continue for several weeks, will delve deeper into Johnston’s medical history, with psychiatric experts testifying for both sides. If found not responsible, Johnston would face court hearings to assess her dangerousness and potential confinement to a New York forensic psychiatric center. If convicted, she would face a minimum sentence of 15 years to life in state prison.