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.

FILED UNDER: Crime, Law and the Courts, Quick Takes
Doug Mataconis
About Doug Mataconis
Doug holds a B.A. in Political Science from Rutgers University and J.D. from George Mason University School of Law. He joined the staff of OTB in May 2010 and contributed a staggering 16,483 posts before his retirement in January 2020.

Comments

  1. PJ says:

    Lawyers for accused Aurora shooter James Holmes have filed papers indicating that their client will be pleading not guilty by reason of insanity

    That was demanded by the NRA in exchange for them paying for his defense.

  2. bill says:

    the insanity defense is one of the most ridiculous things ever, this loser will never be free.

  3. PJ says:

    @bill:

    the insanity defense is one of the most ridiculous things ever, this loser will never be free.

    He’s a white guy who killed a number of people using firearms.
    The NRA, and a lot of conservatives have all been arguing that he’s insane. (Things would have been quite different if he was a Muslim though, then he would have been a part of a Al-Qaeda cell…)

    Are you saying that he’s not insane?

  4. @bill:

    the insanity defense is one of the most ridiculous things ever, this loser will never be free.

    Perhaps the dumbest thing that “bill” has every posted on this site, and that’s saying a lot.

  5. wr says:

    How can he be insane? He’s a gun owner, which means he’s an upstanding, responsible citizen. Just ask JKB.

  6. bill says:

    @PJ: anyone who kills someone for fun is crazy, there should not be an “insanity” defense for anything, it’s lame. the nra has 0.0 to do with this.

  7. bill says:

    @Timothy Watson: being declared “insane” is never an excuse for what you’ve done- yes you!

  8. @bill: So much for the mens reas requirement for a crime, eh? Hell, we don’t even need intent anymore!

    I’m sure the Founding Fathers would approve! Along with anyone else that has a basic understanding of mental illness!