CENTENNIAL, Colo. (AP) – James Holmes was mentally ill but legally sane when he opened fire in a crowded Aurora movie theater, killing 12 people and wounding scores of others, a court-appointed psychiatrist testified.
Dr. William Reid is the first expert witness to testify about Holmes’ mental state at the time of the July 20, 2012, massacre.
Reid, a prosecution witness, said Thursday that despite his mental illness, Holmes didn’t meet the requirements to be found insane under Colorado law.
Holmes has pleaded not guilty by reason of insanity. Defense attorneys are expected to call experts who will testify that Holmes was insane.
Reid conducted nine interviews totaling 22 hours with a medicated Holmes at the state mental health hospital in July 2014, two years after the shooting. On Friday, Reid offered a brief impression of the defendant, saying he showed flashes of humor and wit.
Jurors then began watching a video in which Reid asks Holmes about his relationships with other people. Holmes responds in short sentences about going to church with his family as a child and visiting an orphanage in Mexico as an undergraduate student.
Holmes says faith was important to his mother but that he himself was “never really a believer.” Asked about his parents’ relationship, he said he “could see love between them” and that he also felt loved.
In a segment shown Thursday, Holmes tells Reid he sometimes cries before he goes to bed because he regrets the shooting.
The judge Thursday denied a defense request for a mistrial after Reid declared that whatever illness Holmes had, “it did not prevent him from forming intent and knowing the consequences of what he was doing.”
Judge Carlos A. Samour Jr. acknowledged Reid came close to offering an opinion not simply on whether Holmes was capable of understanding right from wrong, as he is legally allowed to do, but strayed into an area that is up to the jury — deciding the defendant’s exact state of mind on the night of the massacre.
Samour then reminded the jury that the law defines a defendant as insane if he or she was so mentally diseased or deficient at the time of committing a crime as to be incapable of telling right from wrong, or of forming a culpable state of mind.
When District Attorney George Brauchler resumed questioning, Reid gave shorter answers, but his conclusion was the same.
Did Holmes have a serious mental illness? “Yes.”
Despite that illness, did Holmes have “the capacity to know right from wrong” on July 19 and 20, 2012, the night of the attack? “Yes.”
Did Holmes have the capacity to form the intent to act after deliberation and to act knowingly? “Yes.”
And did Holmes meet the legal definition of sanity? “Yes.”
Reid acknowledged that much had changed between the attack and his interview. He said Holmes suffered a “physical and mental breakdown” in November 2012, five months after his arrest, when he was treated at a Denver hospital and began taking anti-psychotic and other medications.
Because Holmes pleaded insanity, prosecutors have to prove he was sane, and therefore guilty, at the time of the attack. Prosecutors want him executed, not sent to a mental hospital.
Officials at the state mental health hospital asked Reid to evaluate Holmes after Samour ruled an earlier state-ordered review of his sanity was flawed. On the opening day of the trial, Brauchler said both Reid and Dr. Jeffrey Metzner, who conducted the first evaluation in December 2013, had determined Holmes was legally sane.
By Dan Elliott, AP Writer
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