CENTENNIAL, COLO.: Two versions of the unstable mind of James Holmes were presented to a jury Monday as lawyers revealed many more details about his conversion from a promising grad student to a gunman capable of opening fire on hundreds of unsuspecting moviegoers at a Batman premiere.
The lead prosecutor displayed an image of the theater door on a TV screen as he told of a sinister but sane killer who methodically carried out the 2012 mass murder to make himself feel good and be remembered.
“Through this door is horror. Through this door are bullets, blood, brains and bodies. ... He tried to murder a theater full of people to make himself feel better and because he thought it would increase his self-worth,” said District Attorney George Brauchler, standing before a scale model of the theater.
Brauchler said two previously secret court-ordered psychiatric exams found Holmes to be sane.
Public Defender Daniel King countered that Holmes suffers from schizophrenia, a diagnosis confirmed by 20 doctors.
Jurors must decide whether Holmes was able to know right from wrong when he slipped into the theater, unleashed tear gas and killed 12 people and wounded 70. He’s charged with first-degree murder, attempted murder, an explosives offense and committing an act of violence for the mayhem he caused on July 20, 2012.
Holmes has pleaded not guilty by reason of insanity.
“There will be no doubt in your minds that by the end of this trial, Mr. Holmes is severely mentally ill,” King said.
Holmes sat quietly, harnessed to the floor by a cable that ran through his pants leg as the lawyers described his emotional rise and fall.
Defense attorneys said mental illness ran through both sides of Holmes’ family. Holmes attempted suicide at age 11, had “intrusive thoughts” in high school, and his mental illness “revved up” in his 20s, his attorney Katherine Spengler said. By grad school, his “psychosis bloomed,” King said.
But Brauchler pointed to emails Holmes sent his parents, where he seemed to communicate rationally and downplay his emotional decline.