Sunday, July 12, 2015
Defense lawyers trying to avoid the death penalty for Colorado movie massacre gunman James Holmes wrapped up their case on Friday, hoping they have convinced jurors he was legally insane when he carried out one of the worst U.S. mass shootings.
They concede that he killed 12 people and wounded 70 when he opened fire with a semiautomatic rifle, shotgun and pistol inside a movie theater in 2012, and that had rigged his apartment with bombs before he left. But they say he suffers schizophrenia and was not in control of his actions.
Prosecutors accuse Holmes of being a cold-blooded murderer who aimed to kill all 400 people in the packed midnight premiere of a Batman film at the Century 16 cinema in Aurora, a Denver suburb. He failed in part because the drum magazine he bought for his rifle jammed.
After playing jurors a video of the defendant naked and running head-long into a cell wall, and another of him thrashing around in restraints at a hospital, the defense rested.
The prosecution said it would not present any rebuttal case. Attorneys from both sides will make closing arguments on Tuesday.
The defense team had earlier called a succession of psychiatrists and psychologists who studied Holmes, as well as jail staff who met him after he was arrested at the scene dressed head-to-toe in body armor, a gas mask and a helmet.
Their star expert witness, Raquel Gur, director of the Schizophrenia Research Center at the University of Pennsylvania, spent a grueling 4 days on the stand defending her diagnosis that Holmes was legally insane.
“He was not capable of differentiating between right and wrong,” Gur said on Thursday. The noted psychiatrist and author once examined Unabomber Ted Kaczynski and Arizona mass shooter Jared Loughner.
“He was not capable of understanding that the people that he was going to kill wanted to live.”
2 court-appointed psychiatrists reached a different conclusion: while Holmes is severely mentally ill, they have told jurors, he was legally sane when he planned and carried out the massacre.
Holmes did not testify in his own defense.
Throughout the trial he has displayed almost no reaction to the parade of more than 200 victims, law enforcement officials, medical workers and other witnesses who took the stand, just a few feet in front of where he sat tethered to the floor beneath the desk used by his attorneys.
Sometimes he turned his head to watch videos of himself played on a court television. Responding with 1-word answers, he told Arapahoe County District Court Judge Carlos Samour on Thursday that he understood his decision not to testify.
Holmes has pleaded not guilty by reason of insanity, and if the jury agrees he would avoid the death penalty. Under Colorado law, the prosecution must prove he was sane for him to be found guilty of multiple counts of 1st-degree murder and attempted murder. District Attorney George Brauchler attacked Gur’s testimony during lengthy cross-examination.
Suggesting she neglected important indicators of Holmes’ state of mind, he said she failed to take detailed notes, and wrote a much shorter report than the court-appointed psychiatrists.
“Why not just send in a postcard?” Brauchler asked.
Jurors have posed questions to many witnesses, and Gur faced more than 50 written queries from the jury that were read to her by the judge.
They included whether she considered other diagnoses such as autism. She replied that she did. “The presentation was most consistent with … schizophrenia,” Gur said.