Aurora Shooter James Holmes To Plead Not Guilty By Reason Of Insanity
Lawyers for accused Aurora shooter James Holmes have filed papers indicating that their client will be pleading not guilty by reason of insanity:
James Holmes wants to plead not guilty by reason of insanity to the killing of 12 people and the wounding of 70 others in theAurora movie theater attack.
In a filing Tuesday, Holmes’ lawyers wrote they intend to “tender a plea of not guilty by reason of insanity.” Holmes would need a judge’s permission to change his plea.
This isn’t entirely surprising, of course. Holmes’s actual guilt in the case is not seriously in doubt, and we’ve already seen plenty of evidence that Holmes was mentally unstable to some degree in the weeks and months leading up to the shooting. At the same time, though, this will be an exceedingly difficult defense to maintain. Essentially, legal insanity means that the person in question was so mentally unbalanced that they were unable to recognize the nature of their actions, and were unable to recognize they were wrong. Notwithstanding the reports about Holmes’s mental issues, the prosecution is likely to point to both the planning he took in advance of the theater attack, such as purchasing weapons and ammunition, and the fact that he rigged his apartment with bobby traps for whomever might come to search it after he was caught or killed as evidence that he was fully aware of what he was doing. Colorado does have a quirk in it that shifts the burden on insanity to the prosecution, but that many not be as big a hurdle as some have anticipated.
In any case, this would appear to indicate that, at least for the moment, plea negotiations have broken down and this case is headed for trial. In the end, though, it should be remembered that the defense’s real strategy here is all aimed at building a case for avoiding the death penalty. I doubt even they believe they have much of getting Holmes off at the trial stage.