TODAY   |  July 10, 2012

Did texts drive teen to attempted murder?

As the trial begins for Wayne Treacy, the teen accused of attempted first-degree murder for repeatedly kicking Josie Ratley, 13, in the head, defense attorneys are arguing he is not guilty because of insanity driven by cruel texts Ratley sent him. NBC’s Kerry Sanders reports.

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>>> let's begin the half hour with attempted murder trial of a florida teenager accused of viciously attacking a younger girl. prosecutors say it was all because of text messages . nbc's kerry sanders in fort lauderdale this morning. kerry, good morning.

>> reporter: good morning, matt. wayne traceacy confessed he put on steele toed boots and tracked down ratley and attacked her, an attack so vicious it left her with brain damage . his lawyers claim he's not guilty because he was in sane. wayne treacy sat in court crying as prosecutors say he continued to kick the victim's head wearing steel toed boots .

>> he kicked her head like a soccer ball .

>> reporter: the attack so vicious he left her brain damaged . her mother overwhelmed in court. the defense said he snapped after a series of tech messages with ratley. in one of the messages ratley taunted him about his brother who committed suicide five months earlier. treacy discovered his brother's body hanging from a tree.

>> wayne with a mental infirmity did not know right from wrong at the time.

>> in court teenagers read aallowed treacy 's text messages .

>> he tried to kill someone.

>> reporter: defense lawyers say doctors for the defense and the state agree treacy suffered ptsd, posttraumatic stress disorder. the defense claims that is what triggered an attack on a girl he didn't even know.

>> the issue is why, why did this happen. i'm hopeful that after the evidence that you'll return a verdict of not guilty by reason of in sanity.

>> one key piece may not be played to the jury. this video of treacy ranting to himself left in the interrogation room. his lawyers say treacy 's bizarre behaviors are at the heart of the defense. he was insane. at the last minute monday the prosecution dropped a bombshell saying they had no intention of playing the video in court. under court rules the defense cannot refer to the tape unless the prosecutor introduces it first. the judge says he's now considering if there is another way that the jurors will be able to see that videotape, because it's so critical to the defense strategy . if wayne treacy is convicted, he could face up to 50 years in prison. as for josie ratley, her lawyers tell us she is improving but still in rehabilitation, able to draw pictures , something she enjoyed doing before this life changing event. matt.

>> all right. kerry sanders in florida this morning. kerry, thank