CENTENNIAL, Colo. (CBS4) – As one murder case with an insanity plea central to the defense concludes, another more high-profile one is lurching along.
Jurors found Ari Liggett, 26, guilty last week of murdering his mother, 56-year-old Beverly Liggett, with cyanide and then dismembering her body.
A jailhouse interview that police recorded with Liggett after his arrest in October 2012 raised questions about his state of mind.
“I think it’s the right thing to do to assault people because it will repress their orientation towards the demons who create our culture,” Liggett said during the interview.
Liggett’s attorneys argued statements like that proved he was insane when he poisoned his mother, chopped up her body, dumped her remains in plastic bins and then drove them around in the back of her SUV.
His family disagreed.
“He was definitely sane,” his sister, Livia Liggett, said, “but he is also extremely mentally ill.”
She said his illness was percolating for a long while, and the prosecution claimed he planned the killing of his mother for years. The pointed to Liggett’s stockpiling of cyanide. He also expressed hatred for his mother, something the prosecution argued was more motive than insanity.
“She is abusive to me, doesn’t realize it. She is extremely irritable,” Liggett said in the recording.
The recording was one piece of evidence that led the jury to conclude Liggett was sane at the time of the murder and knew the difference between right and wrong.
Soon, in another courtroom, James Holmes will go on trial also using the insanity defense. His attorneys have all but admitted he killed 12 and wounded dozens of others in July 2012 shooting at an Aurora movie theater.
The trial has been delayed repeatedly, partially because Holmes’ attorneys have argued the complexity of the case, including his insanity defense, have made mounting a defense very difficult.
Prosecutors are expected to argue he planned the mass theater shooting for months. CBS4 legal analyst Karen Steinhauser says the defense will claim he still could have been insane.
“If, hypothetically, a person believes they were the Joker or Batman, believing that ideal, it doesn’t mean they are more sane because they planned it out,” Steinhauser said. The shooting took place during a premiere of the latest Batman movie, and Holmes’ hair was dyed orange during the attacks, which some said was an homage to the Joker character.
On Tuesday, prosecutors said a poster on Holmes’ apartment wall should be shown to jurors because it shows his normalcy. The defense, meanwhile, wants a skull-shaped gear-shift handle from the defendant’s car kept out of the trial.
Central to an insanity defense in Colorado is the notion of whether a defendant can perceive right from wrong while committing a crime.
In Holmes’ case, the first judge wrote in court documents in 2013 that an insanity defense applies to a “person who is so diseased or defective in mind at the time of the commission of the act as to be incapable of distinguishing right from wrong.” Further, a legally insane person doesn’t possess “moral obliquity, mental depravity, or passion growing out of anger, revenge, hatred, or other motives and kindred evil conditions.”
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