Why the Colorado Theater Shooter Trial Is So Important

by Diane Dimond on April 27, 2015

James Holmes Shortly After His Arrest

James Holmes Shortly After His Arrest

So here comes another headline grabbing criminal trial. James Holmes, now 27, stands accused of murdering 12 and wounding 70 others in a mass shooting at an Aurora, Colorado movie theater in July 2012. Opening statements in the capital murder case are set for Monday.

Ho hum, you say? I beg to differ.

This trial is massively important for anyone who wants to understand what possesses young men to grab guns, randomly shoot-to-kill total strangers and then plead not guilty by reason of insanity. It promises to give us a rare glimpse into the troubled mind of a mass shooter. All too often they turn the gun on themselves or force a suicide by cop. And we are left with nothing but questions.

His Suicide Insured No Answers to Vital Questions

Adam Lanza: His Suicide Insured No Answers to Vital Questions

Why did they do it? How did they pick their victims? Had they sought mental health treatment and were turned away for lack of space? If the shooter wanted to die why did they kill so many others in the process?

And all too often we accept unsatisfactory explanations like, “He was just evil, I guess.” If that’s the case I want to understand where that evil seed was planted and how it was nurtured.

Or if, as Holmes’ defense team maintains, this was a case of uncontrollable mental illness I want to know why no one noticed or offered him help before it was too late. If Holmes, an honored neuroscience student pursuing his PhD, is so mentally ill that he sought to destroy strangers who had simply gathered to watch a midnight showing of a Batman movie, then why is the state of Colorado seeking the death penalty? Is that what we do to sick people?

Ah, back to the importance of this trial. It is up to a court of law to decide whether James Holmes suffered a psychotic break that awful summer evening or whether he knew exactly what he was doing.

Holmes Jury Must Decide if Insanity Defense Applies

Holmes Jury Must Decide if Insanity Defense Applies

Among the evidence the jury will surely hear is how young James stockpiled mail ordered ammunition, manufactured 30 homemade hand grenades and brought in gallons of gasoline to booby-trap his apartment for maximum damage to the investigators he knew would come. Before going to that Aurora, Colorado theater he dressed himself in combat armor. Did those actions reveal his coherent pre-meditation?

The jury will also hear that before the shooting one of his University of Colorado psychiatrists had reported to campus police that Holmes had made “homicidal statements.”

He had sent text messages to a fellow student mentioning dysphoric mania and warning her to stay away, “because I am bad news.” An expert witness is likely to explain that schizophrenia and other mental illnesses mostly take hold in young men around the ages of 18 to 25 – just like Holmes.

The trial is also an important window into how our criminal justice system works.

Holmes Appearance After Years in Custoday

Holmes Appearance After Years in Custody

Guess how much this process has cost so far? An analysis done from public records shows that as of February 2015 this case has gobbled up $5.5 million in public money. That doesn’t include the bill for Holmes’ public defenders. The probable final tab? Ten million or more.

One more lesson about a death penalty trial. If the defendant is found guilty there is a built in guarantee of years of appeals. Years more for victims’ families and survivors to have to testify at hearings and re-live the horror.

Arlene Holmes, the defendant’s mother, has published a small prayer journal she’s kept since the shooting (proceeds to go to mental health services) in which she repeatedly says there is no need for a trial.

“He could go to prison for life. What good does the death penalty do?” she writes. Thoughts no mother in her position can be criticized for thinking.

She also reveals her crash course in the law and mental disorders, admitting she thought her son was just “very shy” – until the shooting.

Robert and Arlene Holmes

Robert and Arlene Holmes at Son’s Court Appearance

“I thought what my son did was completely insane,” she says. “He did what no sane man would do. But the law says a man who knows murder is wrong, then murders anyway, is sane.”

It is doubtful Holmes will take the stand in his own defense but a boatload of information about his personal life, his scholastic failures in the months before the shooting and his overall mental state will be revealed. A rare glimpse into the motivations and mind of the man police say carried out a premeditated mass murder.

Its information we need to understand.

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{ 2 comments… read them below or add one }

Diane Dimond April 27, 2015 at 9:19 am

ABQ Journal Reader Stan Chavez writes:

“I will try to be brief and to the point. First of all I am not any type of professional. In my lay person opinion the reason for these mentally ill people killing is being on or stopping Anti-depressants- Powerful Psychotropic Drugs and Anti-Psychotic Drugs. I have been keeping articles on these mass killings all over the country for several years. In all of them this is mentioned.

Just recently the parents of the man that killed the American Sniper was on the Dr. Phil show and towards the end of this interview they mentioned his being on or stopping these drugs and his bizarre thoughts and behavior while on them or stopping them.

I will never forget the looks in the eyes of Jared Loughner, the shooter in Tucson of the Congresswoman and other people, and the young man who killed all the kids in Connecticut. They looked totally out of it and in a complete daze.

The powerful Pharmaceutical Industry and the Psychiatric Industry are pushing these Drugs for the more powerful DOLLAR. The old proverb (MONEY IS THE ROOT OF ALL EVIL) is very true in my opinion.

The next time you see a commercial for Cymbalta, Abilify, Latuda, and Brisdelle (Paroxetine, generic name for Paxil, now being prescribed for female issues I think for Menopause) they all state “if you notice any thoughts of suicide, bizarre thoughts or behaviors while on these or stopping these drugs please notify your health care professional”.

Abruptly stopping these medications is called Withdrawal syndrome. These are the symptoms, Digestive, Diarrhea, Nausea, Vomiting, Dizziness, Shakiness, HALLUCINATIONS, ANXIETY, DELUSIONAL THOUGHTS OR BEHAVIOR AND PSYCHOTIC SYMPTOMS. These last symptoms is what these people are experiencing.

There is an organization called the CITIZENS COMMISSION ON HUMAN RIGHTS. It is all over the world trying to stop the Powerful Pharmaceutical and Psychiatric Industry from prescribing these Powerful drugs. Here in New Mexico contact Tina Olson, 505-916-9079, If you do I have no problem you mentioning my name. If you can get onto their website and read about them and these Drugs and what they cause you may be surprised.

There are Psychiatrists around the world that do not approve these medications. There are too many people that are under the impression that these Drugs are needed and somebody needs to finally realize they are the problem.

NOBODY IS LISTENING BECAUSE THESE INDUSTRIES HAVE TOO MANY PEOPLE BELIEVING THEIR PROPAGANDA.”

Reply

Nancy Robel April 27, 2015 at 11:19 am

Diane,
I too would like answers to the questions you mention. I hope some of that information can be presented, but I doubt it. The defense will try to keep the focus on his insanity and not what caused it. If they could remove the death penalty issue, we might reveal some of those truths, but then there wouldn’t be need for the trial. I would much rather see a published account of Holmes’ mental decline with cooperation from his parents, witnesses and psychiatrists. That would be a helpful tool in identifying and curtailing these tragedies in the future.

I am very interested in what Stan Chavez has stated above – A very astute observation of mass murderers. And his statements ring true of the more recent mass murderer, Elliot Rodgers in Isla Vista (Santa Barbara) that our Sheriff’s Department responded to. I agree with what he has researched and it underscores that people who need this type of medication should have a support system to monitor them while taking them.

I think DRUGS are fast becoming the root of all evil.

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