Theater shooting prosecutors build case that Holmes was sane
Centennial, Colo. — Prosecutors are methodically building a case that James Holmes knew right from wrong when he planned and carried out the deadly Colorado theater shootings, hoping to convince jurors he should be convicted and executed and not sent to a mental hospital.
After a month of testimony from victims and investigators, prosecutors this week shifted to Holmes’ mental state. They showed jurors notes that Holmes made on how long it would take police to respond to an attack on the theater as well as a dating website profile on which he asked, “Will you visit me in prison?”
A state-appointed psychiatrist who examined Holmes, William Reid, is expected to testify Thursday. District Attorney George Brauchler has already told jurors the doctor concluded Holmes was legally sane.
In the coming days, prosecutors also plan to show 22 hours of videotaped interviews that Reid conducted with Holmes. They will periodically stop the video to question Reid about the conversations.
Holmes pleaded not guilty by reason of insanity in the July 20, 2012, attack on a suburban Denver theater, which killed 12 people, wounded 58 and injured 12.
Under Colorado law, the burden of proof is Brauchler’s team to convince the jury that Holmes was sane. On Tuesday, they showed jurors a notebook Holmes kept, with scribbled maps and cramped handwriting that sketched out a chilling list of choices: mass murder or serial murder, attack a theater or an airport, use guns, bombs or biological warfare.
It details which auditoriums in the theater complex had the fewest exits and offered the least chance he would be detected. One map shows the theater complex and a nearby police station and National Guard building. “ETA response (is about) 3 mins.,” Holmes wrote.
Coupled with other prosecution evidence about Holmes’ behavior, the notebook is a serious blow to the defense, said Steven Pitt, a forensic psychiatrist who has worked on sanity cases but isn’t involved in the Holmes trial.
The defense has said Holmes suffers from schizophrenia and the disease had so distorted his mind that he did not know right from wrong — Colorado’s standard for an insanity verdict.
But the notebook “speaks to his appreciation of wrongfulness,” Pitt said. Mental illness alone is not enough to satisfy an insanity verdict in Colorado, he noted.
Pitt said the notebook does provide the defense with strong evidence Holmes was mentally ill, which they could use to argue against the death penalty if he is convicted.
“This is a guy who is really struggling and is clearly mentally ill,” Pitt said.
Defense attorney Daniel King told jurors that much of the notebook consists of Holmes’ confused musings about his life. King cited Holmes’ ramblings on the meaning of life and death, as well as the question, “Why?” repeated over eight pages.
Defense lawyers will call their own witnesses to buttress their argument that Holmes was insane starting in about three weeks, after prosecutors finish.
In the notebook, Holmes tries to document his self-diagnosed mental illness, listing 13 ailments including schizophrenia and “borderline, narcissistic, anxious, avoidant and obsessive compulsive personality disorder.” He took five pages to list mental illness symptoms. “So, anyways, that’s my mind,” he wrote. “It’s broken. I tried to fix it.”
It wasn’t clear when Holmes wrote the notebook, and no expert witnesses have confirmed Holmes’ self-described conditions.
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