Known for the mass shooting this July, James Holmes now waits as his defense team does whatever they can to help his case. Just months ago, he walked into the Aurora theatre showing of “The Dark Knight Rises” with a AR-15 assault style rifle two pistols and a shot gun, hair dyed red, shouting that he was the “Joker”. Holmes is currently being charged with opening fire in a Colorado theatre, killing 12 people and injuring another 58. Originally, Holmes was facing 116 counts of attempted murder, on top of the other charges; however, the judge quickly added another 14 counts against him.
Aurora Shooting Case
The preliminary hearing is set for the 7th of January next year. At this time, the prosecution will have had months to prepare their case against the defendant, trying to prove that he is in fact responsible for the deaths and injuries of so many victims. James Holmes defense team on the other hand, will also have had months to prepare, finding a way to prove that their client cannot be held responsible for his actions. Reports state that they plan to do so by pleading insanity, claiming that all the actions that took place were a direct result of his inability to control himself because of a mental disorder. This plea also includes a person not being able to comprehend that their actions were wrong or illegal, or that he actually was not aware of the crime he was committing.
In Colorado, like 46 other states in the country, defendants are allowed to plead not guilty by reason of insanity if the lawyers are able to prove that their client is legally insane. This means that they will have to somehow prove that Holmes has a specific psychiatric illness or mental handicap that led to his criminal actions. If the defense is able to prove this, the defendant is then exempt from certain criminal punishments.
Does the insanity defense work?
In the event that a defense team is able to prove that their client is legally insane, the defendant will not be let free back into the world. Rather, they will then be committed into a mental institution where they will receive treatments for their illness. The time frame of their sentencing is generally around the length that they would normally spend behind bars had they been proven guilty. An example of this was given by the LA Times, claiming that the man who was arrested for the assentation attempt of President Reagan, W. Hinckley Jr., was sentenced to a mental institution in 1982. It wasn’t until 1999 that he was given the option to leave the hospital grounds while supervised.
The attempted assassination of Reagan, and the sentencing Hinckley received caused a national uproar. As a result of this case, many states began changing their approach to the insanity plea, making the burden of proof fall on the defense rather than the government prosecution. By doing this, the principle of the prosecution creating a case beyond reasonable doubt was extremely undermined.
For this defense approach to be successful, the lawyers will have to team up with forensic mental health professionals who will complete a series of tests to determine his mental capabilities. These medical professionals will administer tests that the court will approve if used in the court. What is important to realize is that even if they are able to show definitive evidence that the client is insane, they cannot flat out testify against the client. They must simply state the facts, and thereby guide the jury with the information that they present.
As the legal team gathers their information, it is likely that they will use his history as a part of his defense. In a LA Times article, a friend of Holmes discusses what may have set Holmes on edge. Ritchie Duong, 24, attended UC Riverside shares that he and his friend have been in school together since they were in junior high. They bonded over video games, movies and card games. Duong claims that from the time they were in junior high until college, Holmes changed very little. As a neuroscience major, perhaps he was just overwhelmed with his school work? Duong states that he never seemed to be stressed with school, that it actually came too easy for him; Holmes got A’s without taking notes or studying. Ritchie is still trying to process that his friend is responsible for such an act, and it is hard for him to figure out why it happened. They will likely look in to his past with his therapist, family, friends, and other relevant places.
In the case of James Holmes, and many others who are charged with violent criminal acts, pleading insanity is their way of trying to prove that they are not responsible for their own actions. If Holmes’ defense is able to show enough evidence to the jury that their client is insane, they are then seeking to prove him legally blameless, even if that means he will be sent to a mental facility for treatment and to him from harming protect others.
Fortunately in the United States our legal system gives every individual a chance to fight for their rights and their freedom. Even in the event an individual is being charged with a heinous crime such as mass murder, their story deserves a chance to be heard. Whether it means fighting for a “not guilty” verdict, or pleading insanity, each person deserves a chance. If you or someone you know has been accused of any crime, do not hesitate in contacting a Colorado Springs criminal attorney today for the legal representation you need.
The Samuelson Law Firm has years of experience and we want to help you fight whatever charges may have been placed against you.
Contact us today for more information!