Colorado shooter says on video he regretted attack
Centennial, Colo. — Jurors in the Colorado theater shooting trial heard for the first time in the gunman’s own words that he regretted the attack and sometimes cried about it at night.
James Holmes’ comments came about two years after the shooting, in a videotaped interview with a state-appointed psychiatrist.
On Thursday, jurors watched the video and heard testimony from the doctor, William Reid, who said he believes Holmes knew the consequences when he opened fire at a Batman movie premiere in July 2012.
In the video, Reid asks Holmes if he got emotional when his parents visited him in jail for the first time. Holmes responds, “Nope,” but concedes in short answers that he sometimes cries before he goes to bed because he feels bad about the attack.
“What brings tears to your eyes?” the psychiatrist asks.
“Just regrets,” Holmes responds. “Usually it’s before I go to sleep.”
“Regrets about?” Reid asks.
“About the shooting.”
Earlier in the day, Reid testified about his conclusions from the July 2014 interviews, saying “whatever he (Holmes) suffered from” that night, he knew what he was doing.
Reminded that his task was to determine whether Holmes was legally sane during the attack, Reid declared, “whatever he suffered from, it did not prevent him from forming intent and knowing the consequences of what he was doing.”
The comment briefly frustrated the prosecutor, who said his witness had jumped ahead of him, and prompted the defense to ask for a mistrial.
Judge Carlos Samour ultimately denied the request, even as he acknowledged it might confuse jurors on the key question of the trial. They must decide whether Holmes’ disease or deficient mental state at the time of the attack met Colorado’s legal definition of sanity, leaving him unable to form a “culpable mental state.”
Essentially, the judge said, Reid was supposed to limit his opinions to whether Holmes was capable of understanding right from wrong — but not whether he actually understood it.
“I do think someone could misunderstand the use of the term “prevent,” Samour said, but he ruled that Reid’s overall comments didn’t violate that subtle boundary.
After a long break to settle the question, District Attorney George Brauchler asked Reid “to be precise” about his findings, and the psychiatrist gave the briefest possible responses.
Did Holmes have a serious mental illness? “Yes.”
Despite that illness, did Holmes have “the capacity to know right from wrong” on July 19 and 20, the night of the attack? “Yes.”
Did Holmes have the capacity to form the intent to act after deliberation, and to act knowingly? “Yes.”
And did Holmes meet the legal definition of sanity? “Yes.”
Holmes has pleaded not guilty by reason of insanity in the attack that killed 12 people and injured 70. Colorado law gives the state the burden to prove he was sane, and therefore guilty. Prosecutors want him executed, not sent to a mental hospital.
Reid said before spending 22 hours interviewing Holmes, he interviewed Holmes’ parents and dozens of others who knew him. He said he spent about 300 hours preparing for the sanity exam, including viewing more than a week of videos of Holmes in jail shortly after the attack.
“There was nothing to indicate insanity,” Reid said. “He seemed to sleep at slightly odd hours. I can’t think of very much else.”
Reid acknowledged that Holmes’ mental state had changed in the two years between the attack and the interview, including what he described as a “physical and mental breakdown” in November 2012, when Holmes was videotaped repeatedly ramming his head against a cell wall while naked.
Holmes has taken anti-psychotic medicine since then, but Reid said the episode wasn’t relevant to his capacity to understand right from wrong months earlier.
The judge asked for Reid’s interview after prosecutors challenged the conclusions of the first state-ordered review of his sanity, by Dr. Jeffrey Metzner in December 2013.
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