"They say that without the name-calling … Miss Prince would not have killed herself. But before Miss Prince's unfortunate and tragic death, she had a history fraught with problems," a lawyer for Sharon Chanon Velazquez, 17, who is accused of tormenting Prince, says in court newly filed documents. "She had been diagnosed and treated for mental health issues before [Velasquez] had any interactions with her."
Prince committed suicide Jan. 14 after she was allegedly bullied at her South Hadley, Mass., high school. Indictments against the six students were announced in March.
Prince's mother, Anne O'Brien, confirmed a previous report from Slate.com that described the 15-year-old as "deeply troubled" long before her death, telling a Massachusetts grand jury that Prince "started harming herself" in 2008 after female classmates bullied her in Ireland.
"Phoebe told me that at one point she wanted the pain to stop," O'Brien testified, according to the documents.
As a result, Prince began taking antidepressants and again used the medication in May 2009, two months before the family moved to Massachusetts. By then, Prince had been harming herself for three months, according to the grand jury testimony.
"When we moved here to South Hadley, we were hoping Phoebe [would] have a new start. In November 2009 I saw a change with Phoebe," O'Brien said.
The morning after Thanksgiving, Prince, her mother added, "came to me and told me she took all the Seroquel [medication used to treat bipolar disorder] and that she didn't feel well." She was then placed in a psychiatric hospital for several days.
Lawyers for all six defendants, who are facing charges ranging from stalking to statutory rape and a civil rights violation with bodily injury offense, have said their clients are not guilty.
Last month, in his first comments about the case Prince's father, Jeremy Prince, said he'd be willing to forgive the alleged bullies if they would publicly apologize.
Calls to O'Brien's lawyer were not immediately returned, but last month the prosecutor on the case released a statement defending the charges.
"As a matter of law, the existence of a victim's disability does not legally excuse a defendant's criminal actions," Northwestern District Attorney Elizabeth Scheibel said in the statement. "Under many statutory schemes, it serves to aggravate the offense, rather than mitigate it. The charges filed against the six defendants are appropriate and supported by the available evidence," she said.