Psychiatrist Richard Barrett was hired by Zwack's lawyers to examine
Kyle. After several hours of interviews and a survey of the young
man's psychiatric history, Barrett concluded that, yes, Kyle Zwack
was insane even by the strict M'Naghten standard used in Texas.
"It wasn't close," Barrett says today. "He didn't know what he
Barrett interviewed Zwack for several hours. Yes, he acknowledges,
even without medication Kyle spoke with "lucidity." "But you know
a lot of people who are schizophrenic do. It's not like they just
talk gibberish to you. But he had a very fixed delusional system.
If he wanted to let you know what it was, it was there and it was
By "fixed delusional system," Barrett means a tightly-held set
of beliefs that bear no relation to reality—a classic symptom of
paranoid schizophrenia. Zwack believed he was on a righteous mission
to battle police and other shadowy forces who were conspiring against
him, Barrett found.
For further evidence of Zwack's insanity, defense attorney John Ackerman pointed
to the Omega Project. That's the name Kyle had given to an elaborate plan he'd
drawn up on his computer—a plan to build a machine-gun turret on the back of his
pickup truck, load the vehicle full of explosives and drive it under the Hennepin
County Government Center, blowing up the 25-story building.
Nonetheless, at his trial, mental health experts for the prosecution
testified Zwack was sane. At the time, psychologist Jerome Brown
did routine mental examinations for the Harris County courts. He
says he remembers the Zwack case only faintly. "But apparently I
did not find any evidence of the delusions and the altered perception
of reality that perhaps the defense attorneys were claiming."
Brown's testimony was based on a one-hour interview with Zwack.
And unlike mental experts for the defense, Brown was not told about
Zwack's psychiatric history or his plan for mass-destruction, the
Omega Project. Told about those things twelve years later, Brown
says Zwack must have decided to hide his delusions during their
"Strangely enough," he says, "many of these people would rather
be found guilty of a crime than to be called crazy and so they will
actually withhold the very symptoms and evidence that might exonerate
them. It may be that we missed all of this and that he may have
been genuinely much sicker than we were able to determine at the
Following testimony from Brown and another expert that Zwack was
sane, the Houston jury returned its verdict: guilty. One juror who
asked that his name not be used told us he didn't think Zwack had
a mental problem; Kyle was just "a violent person"...a "troublemaker," the juror said.
Another juror, Roy Sandoval, was willing to speak about the case
in more detail. He said most on the jury thought Zwack was mentally
ill, but not that ill. "He was a bright kid, apparently, and there
just wasn't enough evidence to show that he was completely out of
Still, Sandoval says, several jurors were sympathetic to the notion
that Zwack might be legally insane. Discussion in the jury room
turned to the question of what would happen if Kyle were acquitted
and set free.
"The concern was that he would be let out in the general population.
I think a lot of people understood that he had problems that had
to be dealt with, and he was old enough to make up his own mind,
and if his parents would want him to be committed or have some sort
of therapy, that he was old enough to say, 'No, I don't want it,'
and go out and commit the same crime again, or another crime."
"A Very Serious Mistake"