You may recall James Holmes of Aurora, Colorado. He is accused of opening fire during the midnight showing of the latest Batman movie, “The Dark Knight Rises,” back in June 2012, killing 12 people and wounding 70 others. It is considered to be one of the deadliest shootings in United States history. Holmes went so far as to resemble a character related to the film by coloring his hair orange like the Joker villain from a prior Batman movie.
Holmes now faces trial in Aurora. He claims he was insane at the time of the shootings, and his legal defense and court plea is not guilty by reason of insanity. Prosecutors are seeking the death penalty. According to court papers filed in July 2013, Holmes says he was suffering “a psychotic episode” at the time, and does admit to being responsible for the shootings. Public defenders, Daniel King and Tamara Brady, released a statement saying, “evidence revealed thus far in the case supports the defense’s position that Mr. Holmes suffers from a severe mental illness and was in the throes of a psychotic episode when he committed the acts that resulted in the tragic loss of life and injuries sustained by moviegoers on July 20, 2012.”
One reason Holmes’s trial has been delayed until now is the multiple psychiatric evaluations that were conducted to try and determine his mental state. Holmes maintains that he should not be responsible for his actions due to mental disease or impairment. Once the insanity defense is accepted by the court, the burden is on the state to prove the defendant was sane. In terms of punishment, if the jury finds Holmes not guilty by reason of insanity, he will be sent to a psychiatric facility. The length of time required for him to be there will depend on continuing evaluations of his mental health and whether he is considered to be a danger to others.
Jury selection for the case began in January when 9,000 potential jurors were summoned for duty – one of the nation’s largest jury calls to date. The jury, comprised of 19 women and 5 men, will ultimately decide Holmes’ fate. The jury will have to reach verdicts on each of the 165 counts against Holmes, including murder and attempted murder charges. The trial could last until the Fall.
Prior to the shooting, Holmes was a doctoral student in neuroscience, and he was studying how the brain works; coincidental considering the case at hand and his defense that he lacked the capacity to control his own mind.
Colorado prosecutors rarely seek the death penalty, and the state has just three inmates on death row. Only one death-row inmate in Colorado has been executed in approximately 50 years.
For questions about the content of this article or to speak to an attorney regarding a case you are involved in, contact TJ Grimaldi at McIntyre Thanasides Bringgold Elliott Grimaldi & Guito, P.A.
To read about the Tampa movie theater shooting case, visit our blog, “Trial Date Set for Oulson Case”.