Also published here, at the CU News Corps website.
By Peri Duncan // CU News Corps // Published June 4, 2015
When psychiatrist William Reid asked James Holmes if he had any notable thoughts when falling asleep the night before the shooting, Holmes replied: “No, it was kind of just another day.”
On July 20, 2012, Holmes went on a shooting spree in Aurora’s Century 16 movie theater, killing 12 people and injuring 70 more. The prosecution is pursuing the death penalty, while the defense hopes to convince the jury that Holmes is not guilty by reason of insanity.
Thursday, the prosecution played the final segments of a 22-hour video of Reid’s 2014 interviews with the defendant, the only recorded psychiatric interviews the court will see. Prosecutors concluded questioning Reid at approximately 4 p.m. Cross-examination began within the last hour of the day, during which the defense aimed to discredit the psychiatrist’s assessment of the defendant’s sanity.
“I think it’s wrong to kill children,” the shooter told Reid in the final segments of the 22 hours of interviews. He chose a late night time and a PG-13 movie when planning the massacre in part because he was “80 percent sure” there wouldn’t be children attending.
“The prosecutor is trying to use the entire recording to show that he was aware of what he was doing and that he was capable at the time of distinguishing right from wrong,” said Karen Steinhauser, an adjunct professor at the University of Denver who has worked as both a prosecutor and a defense attorney. Steinhauser warned against taking any statements from the video out of context.
In response to video seen today, the NoNotoriety campaign quickly posted to Twitter.
Reid asked the defendant how he wanted to be remembered before the shootings. “I just wanted to be remembered visually by my picture,” the defendant said, referencing photographs he took of himself prior to the shooting, with red-orange hair and solid black contacts, specifically one holding a gun in front of his face.
The shooter admitted he might have looked devil-like or dangerous in those pictures, emphasizing that he was not someone you’d want to mess with. He also acknowledged that other people would likely believe the killings were evil.
“His firm belief that other people would believe the killings were evil suggests to me a capability of knowing right from wrong with respect to the societal standards of morality,” Reid told the prosecution. The defendant also mentioned to Reid that he was initially referred to a psychiatrist, Dr. Lynne Fenton, due to anxiety and homicidal thoughts.
“Not everyone who makes homicidal statements carry out homicidal acts,” Reid said. During the prosecution’s questioning, he was handed a DSM-5, the psychiatrist’s diagnosis handbook. District Attorney George Brauchler had Reid recite passages from the book, and using these, release his final diagnosis.
Parallelling his initial statement to the court last Thursday — “Whatever he suffered from, it did not stop him from forming the intent and knowing what he was doing and the consequences of what he was doing,” — Reid held fast to his belief that while the defendant met the criteria for a schizotypal personality, he did not meet the criteria for schizophrenia.
Yesterday the jury heard the shooter say that if he receives the death penalty, his system gives whoever makes the lethal injection concoction, the executioner himself, or the jury’ his “life point.” Today, Dr. Reid ended the prosecution’s questioning bearing in mind that the jury “still has a hard job to do,” but affirming his belief that the defendant was legally sane on July 19-20, 2012.
As the prosecution nears the final weeks of its case, its focus is proving the shooter’s sanity at the time of the event. Largely starting with Reid’s cross-examination, the defense will do its best to prove otherwise.
Defense attorney Dan King began cross-examination in a tip-toeing manner, first informing Reid that he would be asking about his approach to the examination and his qualifications, and about schizophrenia spectrum disorders.
Reid clarified for King that psychiatrists are medical doctors while psychologists are not, and that he used various methods to verify the defendant was not faking results. He concluded that there was very little evidence of faking or hiding symptoms, mentioning that all of the doctors who did evaluations agreed with this conclusion.
King also made a point of highlighting the malleable quality of memory, as well as that the shooter was medicated at the time of the interview, but not at the time of the shooting. He then asked Reid a variety of questions about fairness in court, job quality and potential bias. As a testifying expert, Reid feels he owes objectivity to the court. In this case he was obtained by the judge, not the defense or prosecution.
“Without Mr. Holmes being affected by mental illness, we would not be here today, correct?” King asked Reid in the last minutes of court Thursday.
The defense’s questioning will continue tomorrow morning, including replays of clips from the video interviews that the court has been watching since this past Thursday.
Editor’s note: CU News Corps will honor the victims of this tragedy with every post via this graphic.