In November of 2012, a Long Island man walked calmly up to the 12th floor Manhattan home office of psychiatrist Michael Weiss. Wielding a sledgehammer and a knife, Jacob Nolan beat and stabbed the doctor seven times, before calmly walking into the hallway and snapping a few selfies while covered in Weiss’ blood. What would follow would be a sensational story of mind control and whether or not a jury would believe if Nolan had too been a victim.

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For some time prior to the attack Nolan had been living with his cousin, Pamela Buchbinder. Buchbinder, who had also worked as a psychiatrist, had been embroiled in a messy custody battle with Weiss. According to Nolan’s defense lawyers, it was during Nolan’s time living with Buchbinder that he began to develop a hatred towards Weiss based upon suggestions by Buchbinder.

Nolan, who had been diagnosed with bipolar disorder, was alleged to be vulnerable to Buchbinder’s suggestions and claimed that she had slowly convinced Nolan that he should kill Weiss. Buchbinder has not been charged in the attack on Weiss, but was alleged to have gone as far as to assist Nolan in purchasing the sledgehammer from a Home Depot and provided him with a hand drawn floor plan of Weiss’ building prior to the attack.

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According to an article published in The New York Times, “… Ms. Buchbinder had turned Mr. Nolan into a weapon, and he [defense lawyer Steven Brounstein] argued Mr. Nolan was so brainwashed that he did not understand the consequences of his actions, sitting down after the attack and taking bloody photos of himself rather than fleeing.”

In his closing arguments Brounstein stated “Ms. Buchbinder had taken advantage of Mr. Nolan’s mental illness and submissive personality, indoctrinating him with the idea that Mr. Weiss had to be eliminated because he posed a threat to her son.”

Linda Ford, the case’s lead prosecutor, rebutted the defenses claims. According to The New York Times, “Mr. Nolan, though mentally ill, knew precisely what he was doing and intended to kill Mr. Weiss. She said his motive might have been to help Ms. Buchbinder because he craved her approval and love, but he still had the mental capacity to understand his acts.”

The subject of whether or not a person could be programmed to kill another person has been a controversial one. The CIA spent years conducting experimentation — sometimes without the consent of their subjects — to determine whether or not it was possible to take over someone’s mind and force them to do things that were out of character. Allegedly, the CIA has long abandoned these projects, but since some of this research has been lost or destroyed, we may never know the full scope of their findings.

If you believe hypnotherapist Tom Silver from the CBS television special Hypnotized, then it is absolutely possible. He demonstrates on a corrections officer named Ivan how he can use hypnosis to implant the suggestion that Ivan should pull a gun out of a backpack and assassinate a fictional foreign dignitary exiting a hotel. Naturally, Ivan follows the directions given to him by Silver to a tee, but the verdict is still out on whether this is Hollywood theatrics or if there really is a possibility that trained professionals can convince others to do their bidding for them.

 
 
What is known is that in the case of Jacob Nolan the “programmed to kill” defense did not hold any water.

Weiss asked the judge to “take it easy” on Nolan, according to The New York Post, citing that Buchbinder was the more culpable party in the attack. In addition to ending the custody battle with Weiss over their 7-year-old son, Buchbinder would stand to collect $1.5m upon Wiess’ death as the beneficiary of his life insurance policy. She has since been taken off the policy and full custody of their child was awarded to Weiss as a result of the attack.

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Weiss also told the court, “While I am able to forgive Jake for the attack on me, I am not able to forgive him for the impact that the attack will have on my son when he inevitably learns that his cousin and mother attempted to murder his father. No child should have to bear that burdon”

The jury found Nolan guilty as charged. Heeding Weiss’ advice, the judge ordered that Nolan will only serve 10 years of the maximum 25-year sentence.