Lawyers for Colorado movie gunman James Holmes wrap up case

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.


TEXAS – Steven Staley – Execution – may 16 – STAYED

Facts of the Case

On September 18, 1989, Steven Staley escaped from a community correctional center in Denver, Colorado. Following his escape, Staley embarked upon a series of nine armed robberies as he fled through four states from Colorado to Texas. On October 14, 1989, Staley, accompanied by two friends, Tracey Duke and Brenda Rayburn, went to the Steak and Ale Restaurant in Tarrant County, Texas for dinner. After dinner, and just prior to closing, Staley and Duke removed two semi-automatic pistols from Rayburn’s purse. Staley gathered the employees in the rear kitchen storeroom while Duke secured the front of the restaurant. While this was happening, an assistant manager escaped through a rear door and called the police.

Once all the staff was gathered in the storeroom, Staley demanded that the restaurant’s manager identify himself. Robert Read stepped forward. Read was then ordered by Staley to open the cash registers and the safe. Staley also forced the other employees to get down on the floor and throw out their wallets and purses. One person attempted to stand up, prompting Staley to kick him in the chest and threaten to “blow away” the “next person that puts their head up”.

While this was transpiring, the police, having been alerted by the assistant manager, arrived at the restaurant. Staley, believing that Read had activated a silent alarm, threatened to kill Read if he discovered that the police were outside. Read responded by assuring Staley that the restaurant had no such alarms. He volunteered to serve as a hostage if Staley promised not to hurt the other employees. Staley agreed to Read’s proposal and left the restaurant with Read, Duke and Rayburn, using Read as a human shield. They then hijacked a car and Staley pushed Read into the back seat with him. Police officers subsequently reported hearing several gunshots before the car pulled off and while the car was accelerating away. A high-speed chase ensued, ultimately ending when the stolen car broke down. Staley, Duke and Rayburn then attempted to flee the scene but were apprehended by the police. The police found Read dead in the back of the car. According to the medical examiner, Read had been shot in the head at point blank range. The evidence indicated that both Staley and Duke had shot Read.

On April 8, 1991 Steven Staley was found guilty of capital murder. He was subsequently sentenced to death on April 25, 1991. Prior to his conviction, Staley had given a written statement implicating himself in the shooting. Tracey Duke was sentenced to three life sentences in Texas and an additional 30 year sentence in Colorado for murder and armed robbery. Brenda Rayburn, as part of a plea bargain, was sentenced to 30 years.

With regard to his competency to be executed, Staley was examined by two experts, including Dr. Mark D. Cunningham, a clinical and forensic psychologist who submitted an affidavit on behalf of the defense. In his affidavit, Dr. Cunningham stated that although he found Staley to be coherent and generally orientated and aware of his impending execution (originally set for March 23rd), Staley’s unmedicated status, the psychotic symptoms he exhibited, and his “apparent growing psychotic decompensation” made “probable that he will become markedly more psychotic” between the time of evaluation (March 16, 2005) and his execution. As a corollary of this, Dr. Cunningham asserted that, as Staley’s “psychosis increases in severity, it may well diminish or negate his understanding” of his death sentence or the execution. He concluded that there was “no assurance that the awareness he displayed regarding his execution [during the examination] will be present at the time of his execution”.

Mental Illness

Staley suffers from paranoid schizophrenia. People diagnosed with such mental disorders frequently have a close biological relative with similar mental illnesses. In Staley’s case, his mother had a long history of mental illness. She was hospitalised in a psychiatric hospital on numerous occasions and treated with psychiatric medications and electroconvulsive therapy. Her records document an “acute schizophrenic episode”.

From an early age, Staley was exposed to violent and erratic behaviour. His mother attempted to pound a wooden stake through his chest at the age of six or seven and, at a later date, attempted to stab both Staley and his sister with a butcher’s knife. On each occasion she was committed to mental health institutions. Staley’s father was a severe alcoholic and was killed in a road traffic accident in 1985. His maternal grandfather also committed suicide. Staley, himself, subsequently attempted suicide when he was 16 or 17 and was later placed on suicide precautions during his incarceration.

Following his incarceration, Staley was hospitalized on numerous occasions for psychiatric care. The first instance occurred on June 17, 1994 and lasted for 3 months until his discharge on September 17, 1994. Immediately following this however, Staley was found unresponsive in his cell and subsequently re-admitted on September 21, 1994 for six weeks. He was forcibly medicated despite his refusals. Staley was then diagnosed with major depression with delusional features and schizoid personality disorder with anti-social features.

Staley subsequently refused to co-operate with medical treatment, attend doctor’s appointments or attend clinics. This culminated in a nurse being called to his cell to treat a seizure. Staley was then re-hospitalised, during which time he reported feelings of paralysis and audio hallucinations with voices torturing him. Again, he was released and then re-hospitalised, this time, however Staley was catatonic. Subsequent psychiatric evaluations “suggested a psychotic valley which is typical of schizophrenia, paranoid type”. Hallucinations, delusions and extreme suspiciousness were noted. He was then discharged.

Staley’s behaviour subsequently deteriorated and he exhibited psychotic, bizarre and on occasions, hostile behaviour. He also reported hallucinations, paralysis and exhibited delusional thinking. Staley was hospitalised ten times in total and diagnosed with paranoid schizophrenia and anti-social personality type. During this period, Staley also suffered from depression and was placed on suicide precautions. Staley was most recently hospitalised for approximately 19 months from November 28, 2002 to June 17, 2004.

The diagnosis of paranoid schizophrenia made during his incarceration is further supported by an examination by Dr. Cunningham. Dr. Cunningham also concluded that Staley suffers from paranoid schizophrenia and is psychotic. In his March 17, 2005 affidavit, Dr. Cunningham reports that Staley’s “speech is characterised by robot-like tone, odd syntax, neologisms (personally created words), alliterations, pseudo-intellectualism, excessive detail, and repetitive phrasing”. Staley also reported “grandiose and paranoid delusional beliefs” believing himself to be on a part-time “security mission to save the world from war” with security clearance. Staley further believed that Texas was out to kill him, either by lethal injection or, “if found innocent possibly by shooting in the outside world, stabbing or poisoning by fellow inmates in prison and general mischievousness”. Staley also claimed to have invented the first car, sold the blueprints to a character from Star Trek and to have been recruited as an undercover police officer at the age of thirteen.

from Steven Staley blog :

Sat Mar 3, 2007 1:13 am (PST)

Order to forcibly medicate killer is debated


FORT WORTH — For more than eight months, officials have been forcibly injecting convicted murderer Steven Kenneth Staley with anti- psychotic drugs that one day may make him sane enough to be executed.Whether Staley deserves to die is not an issue — that was decided long ago by a Tarrant County jury and upheld by the appellate courts. The controversy surrounding Staley now is a complex issue at the forefront of a legal debate about the death penalty in the United States:

Is it constitutional to forcibly medicate a mentally ill Death Row inmate to make him competent enough to be executed?

Staley’s attorney, Jack Strickland, says forcibly medicating Staley, 44, is cruel and unusual punishment and should be stopped immediately.
Tarrant County prosecutor Chuck Mallin says forcibly medicating Staley is necessary to control his psychosis and to carry out a
sentence imposed by a jury more than 15 years ago.
On Thursday, both sides argued the issue before the Texas Court of Criminal Appeals, which is expected to issue an opinion in the near
The nine-judge panel heard the arguments before a standing-room- only crowd in an auditorium at Texas Wesleyan School of Law in downtown Fort Worth.
The state’s highest criminal court occasionally travels from Austin to law schools around the state to give students a chance to hear
arguments and see the criminal justice system at work.

Crime and punishment

On Oct. 14, 1989, Staley and two friends went to a Steak and Ale restaurant in west Fort Worth and sat down to eat.

After finishing their meal, they pulled out semiautomatic weapons and demanded access to the cash register and the safe. As customers and employees huddled at the rear of the restaurant, an assistant manager slipped out and called police.

A short time later, police surrounded the restaurant, and 35-year-old Robert Read, the manager, offered himself as a hostage to spare the others. The three took him up on his offer and held him at gunpoint as they tried to escape.

When Read resisted after they tried to force him into a hijacked car, he was fatally shot.

In April 1991, a Tarrant County jury sentenced Staley to death. Four months later, he found himself on Death Row.

Confined to a tiny cell, Staley — a Charles Manson look-alike who suffers from a severe form of paranoid schizophrenia — was prone to
lying in his urine-soaked cell and blackening his eyes by repeatedly beating himself in the face.

Over the years, he has refused to take his medication because he thinks he is being poisoned. He has been hospitalized up to 19 times.

Three times, Staley has managed to avoid execution after experts determined that he is incompetent and doesn’t understand why he is being put to death.Federal and state law prohibits the execution of an insane or incompetent person.

Last year, Mallin and fellow prosecutor Jim Gibson filed a motion asking state District Judge Wayne Salvant to forcibly medicate Staley to restore his competence and carry out the jury’s verdict.

Staley was moved to the Tarrant County Jail and continued to refuse to take his medication. In April, after a long hearing in which
Staley picked at his hair and mumbled nonsensical phrases, Salvant granted the motion — marking what is believed to be the first time a Texas judge has ordered an incompetent Death Row inmate to be forcibly medicated.

Strickland responded by filing a flurry of legal paperwork, seeking an emergency stay of Salvant’s order. But his requests were denied.

During the week of June 5, according to court documents, Salvant’s order was carried out and officials began forcibly medicating Staley in the Tarrant County Jail, where he remains today.

The appeal

During the hearing Thursday, Strickland asked the Court of Criminal Appeals to stop Salvant’s order until he has time to explore all his
legal options.

“If allowed to stand, it would be the first time such an order has been found to be valid,” Strickland said.

Strickland maintains that, in addition to being cruel and unusual, forcibly medicating Staley is indecent; violates medical ethics as
well as Staley’s rights to privacy and liberty; and produces artificial competence with psychotropic drugs that have painful and
debilitating side effects.

Mallin, meanwhile, urged the court not to intervene, saying he believes that it lacks jurisdiction to stop Salvant’s order.

Mallin said that Staley suffers when he is unmedicated and that the drugs’ side effects do not outweigh their benefits. Treating Staley,
Mallin contended, is necessary and medically appropriate.

“When he takes it, he is competent,” Mallin said. “It is by his own volition that he has decided that he is going to be incompetent. ”

Strickland and Mallin each received about 20 minutes to state their cases but, most of the time, the judges peppered them with questions.

When one of the judges questioned whether they had authority to weigh in on the issue at this stage, Mallin’s reply drew laughs: “The
mountain came to Muhammad,” he said, referring to the panel’s trip from Austin to Fort Worth.

“But I don’t want to be rude and say you need to go home.”

Strickland acknowledged that the case has entered uncharted waters. He told the panel that if Salvant’s order is stayed, it would let him
explore options that might include trying to commute Staley’s sentence to life in prison.

In his final words to the court, Strickland urged the judges not to let Texas become the first state to forcibly medicate someone so he
is competent enough to be executed.

Staley believes that he works for the CIA, that judges and prosecutors were conspiring to steal his car, and that the Prince of  Wales has a summer home in Huntsville and communicates with him telepathically, Strickland said.

“We have an opportunity to do what is right, what is fair, what is decent and what is humane, and that is not to execute a crazy person,” he said.

It could be months before the Court of Criminal Appeals issues its opinion. Officials said the panel could decide that it doesn’t have
jurisdiction and decline to get involved; could agree with Salvant and allow the forcible medication to continue; could stop Salvant’s
order; or could come up with another solution.

Regardless of the decision, one thing is certain: The issue is far from over.