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Model was insane when he killed Portuguese journalist: lawyer

(Advisory: Story contains graphic and sexual descriptions.)

By Jonathan Allen

NEW YORK (Reuters) - A young model was insane when he killed and castrated a prominent Portuguese journalist in a New York hotel room, believing he could "harness the power" of the man's severed testicles, a defense lawyer said at the start of the murder trial on Friday.

Renato Seabra, 22, has been charged with second degree murder for the killing of 65-year-old Carlos Castro in the room they were sharing at the Intercontinental Hotel near Times Square in January 2011.

Prosecutors told the jury that Seabra knew what he was doing when he choked Castro and stamped on his head, bludgeoned him with a computer monitor and mutilated his genitals with a corkscrew.

They charged that Seabra was enraged over the ending of their relationship.

Seabra's lawyers do not dispute that Seabra killed Castro, but they say their client experienced a "psychotic episode" and that the jury should find that he was not legally responsible by reason of insanity.

"In the case of Renato Seabra, crazy really means crazy," Rubin Sinins, Seabra's lawyer, told the jury at the criminal court in Manhattan. "This case is about mental illness."

Sinins added that Seabra was diagnosed that night at Bellevue Hospital in New York with mania and bipolar disorder, a diagnosis that was affirmed by other doctors, including at the jail where he is being held without bail.

Sinins told the jury that Seabra believed he was on a mission from God and that the castration was a sort of exorcism.

"He told the police they were the demons and that by pulling them out, by cutting them out, everything will be right with the world," Sinins said.

He added that his client told the police he believed that by "putting the testicles on each wrist he could harness the power of Carlos Castro's testicles. Ladies and gentlemen, this is insanity."

Seabra, dressed in a tight white shirt and black pants, wore a headset in court and listened impassively to his lawyer through a Portuguese interpreter.

Maxine Rosenthal, the lead prosecutor, told the jury that Seabra showed no symptoms of mental illness before the crime, describing an ambitious young man hungry for fame and money who saw Castro as "a means to an end."

The two men met after Castro contacted Seabra on Facebook and began a relationship in which Castro would buy the young model and his family expensive gifts and bring Seabra along on trips to London and Madrid, Rosenthal said.

They traveled to New York to celebrate the New Year.

Castro was born in Angola during Portugal's colonial rule in the African nation. He became a society journalist and gay activist, contributing to a wide range of media, including Diario de Noticias, 24 Horas and Correio de Manha.

(Editing by Cynthia Johnston and Paul Simao)

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