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Railroad Killer Gets Life Term as Cheers Erupt

March 23, 1995| From Associated Press

MINEOLA, N.Y. — Colin Ferguson was sentenced to life in prison Wednesday for killing six people on a commuter train.

The sentence brought cheers from survivors who had endured cross-examination by the gunman as he acted as his own attorney.

Judge Donald Belfi handed Ferguson the maximum on the murder charges--six consecutive sentences of 25 years to life. The judge also ordered Ferguson to serve 50 years, the maximum, for 19 counts of attempted murder, two weapon charges and reckless endangerment.

Before hearing the sentence, Ferguson, who is black, repeated his claim that the shooter was a white man who stole his semiautomatic handgun from his bag while he slept on the Long Island Rail Road train, and he likened himself to a martyred saint.

Survivors of the rampage, angered by Ferguson's legal efforts, marched out of the courtroom en masse when he began to speak. They returned for Belfi's sentencing and cheered wildly as Ferguson was led away in handcuffs. Ferguson, 37, was stone-faced.

"Thank God it's over," said Carolyn McCarthy, whose husband was killed and whose son was crippled in the Dec. 7, 1993, attack. "Hopefully, today will be the last of Colin Ferguson."

During the trial, police testified that Ferguson was carrying handwritten notes the night of the shooting that expressed his hatred of whites and Asians, blamed whites for sabotaging his life and announced that the LIRR would be his "venue" for revenge. All but one of his victims were white or Asian.

In the polished, calm tone of a lawyer, Ferguson cross-examined victims, survivors and witnesses of the massacre, referring to himself in the third person as "Mr. Ferguson" or "the defendant."

Witnesses sometimes answered Ferguson's questions by directly implicating him. One woman snapped: "I saw you shoot me."

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