Holmes: Why the Prosecution is Waiting to Decide Whether to Seek the Death Penalty

James Eagan Holmes has been charged with 24 counts of Murder in the First Degree and 116 counts of attempted murder for killing 12 people and wounding 58 during a shooting spree inside a movie theater at the midnight showing of the new Batman film, Dark Knight Rising.

Facts are difficult to come by because the Court “has issued a gag order on lawyers and law enforcement, sealing the court file and barring the University of Colorado, Denver from releasing public records relating to Holmes’ year there as a neuroscience graduate student.”

I have written two articles about the case here and here reviewing the potential civil liability of the University of Colorado to the victims of the shooting spree for the alleged failure of its employees, psychiatrist Dr. Lynne Fenton and the members of the university’s threat assessment team to warn the police about a possible threat to harm people that Mr. Holmes may have expressed to Dr. Fenton on or about the day that he formally withdrew in early June as a student in a Ph.D. program in neuroscience.

Probably due to the Court’s gag order, the school has not yet disclosed the specifics of Mr. Holmes’s statement to Dr. Fenton. All that we know so far is that she attempted to convene the mental health clinic’s threat assessment team to review what he said, but the team declined to do so because he had withdrawn from the school.

As I explained in my two articles, given the restrictive and limiting language in the Colorado statute, I believe it is unlikely that the university will be held liable to the victims of the shooting for failing to warn the police about Mr. Holmes. We will have to wait and see what Mr. Holmes said to Dr. Fenton before we can definitively wrap up this discussion.

Now I want to discuss a different subject in the case; namely, the death penalty. The prosecution has charged Mr. Holmes with two murder counts per homicide victim. The two charges contain different elements and basically allege two different ways to commit the same offense. CBS News explains:

Holmes is facing two separate charges for each person killed or injured. The second charge for each alleges that in killing or injuring, Holmes evidenced “an attitude of universal malice manifesting extreme indifference to the value of human life generally.”

The prosecution announced shortly after filing charges against Mr. Holmes, that it has not yet decided whether it will seek the death penalty, if Mr. Holmes is convicted of murder.

Translated into the language we speak, that means it is waiting for the defense to complete its mitigation investigation and submit its report to the prosecution to consider in determining whether to file a notice that it will seek the death penalty.

Mitigation evidence is any evidence about the defendant or the crime he committed that in fairness or in mercy calls for a sentence of less than death.

Mr. Holmes appears to suffer from a serious mental illness, possibly a type of schizophrenia. The defense likely has assembled a team of mental health experts who are testing and evaluating his competency to stand trial and well as his mental functioning. No doubt they have been reaching far back into his life collecting all existing school, medical and mental health records.

Mitigation investigation has developed into an art form as well as a necessary and highly specialized skill over the course of the past 30 years. The most common reason for appellate court reversals of death sentences has been ineffective assistance of defense counsel for failing to conduct a thorough mitigation investigation.

A diagnosis of schizophrenia would be powerful mitigating evidence, even if it did not establish legal insanity, because schizophrenia is a debilitating mental disease over which a person has little or no control. Therefore, traditional arguments for the death penalty that are based on the idea of holding people accountable for their actions by sentencing them to death, lose power in the face of evidence that the person is delusional, not like others, and incapable of making responsible decisions on a regular basis. Most people recognize that there is something fundamentally unfair about sentencing someone to death who lacked the capacity to make rational decisions.

Mr. Holmes may also satisfy the test for legal insanity. That is, that he suffers from a mental disease or defect such that he cannot distinguish between right and wrong and conform his conduct to the requirements of law. Insanity is another mitigating factor.

Regardless of his mental condition, however, he committed horrific acts that required sufficient capacity to plan and carry out a moderately complicated scheme.

When the prosecution receives the defense mitigation report, it will submit it to its own panel of mental health experts for review and comment.

Eventually, both sides will meet and engage in serious discussions regarding whether a mentally ill man should be executed or spend the rest of his life in prison without possibility of parole.

Whether the prosecution ultimately decides to file the notice that it will seek the death penalty will depend on the outcome of those discussions and the thoroughness and quality of the defense mitigation report.

74 Responses to Holmes: Why the Prosecution is Waiting to Decide Whether to Seek the Death Penalty

  1. Personally, I do not believe the death penalty should ever be an option for several reasons already covered here.

    Having said that, I do not believe that people with mental illness should be subject to a different form of justice than a “normal” thinking person. It is the act that must be focused on, not the person. In my opinion we’ve, for too long, delved into the pysche of people in an effort to, oftentimes, excuse, or minimize, their behavior.

  2. thejbmission says:

    Hello Professor,
    I’m really confused in regards to the insanity defense and schizophrenia and I’d like to know your thoughts.
    True schizophrenia can be controlled with medication but what happens when the perp has not yet been diagnosed and acts out in a bizarre deadly way?
    Holmes is the perfect example. Holmes being at the perfect age of 24 which is when the mental disease schizophrenia raises its ugly head. Holmes’ actions such as withdrawing from the elite program of neuro science, buying guns and ammo, booby trapping his apt, etc. etc…and then finally acting out as the “Joker” to act out a killing rampage in a theather. This is classic schizo. IMO, he’s insane.
    I’ve noticed the Courts decide if a person is legally insane AFTER they medicate the person; sometimes this takes years to get the perfect med adjustment. So after years and with the help of some of the BEST physicians the court can find, this person is NOW responsible for his or her actions. That’s fine but that still doesn’t prove the person wasn’t insane when he committed the crime.
    Am I making sense? lol
    Why can’t we as Society, accept that Schizophrenia is a dangerous mental illness? We should become more vigilant in curing and controlling the disease before the poor people who suffer from this disease will do the unthinkable, IMO.
    Note mental illness does exist and it doesn’t come in the form of mental depression so that isn’t a defense but I really feel that schizophrenia is the exception and should be recognizes by our justice system.

    • The answer to your question is that mental health experts are unable to accurately predict acts of future violence.

      You’ve asked a good question so I am going to expand on my answer with a new article.

    • ajamazin says:

      thejbmission,

      “Note mental illness does exist and it doesn’t come in the form of mental depression…..”

      I beg to differ.

      Mental illness is defined as any of various psychiatric conditions, usually characterized by impairment of an individual’s normal cognitive, emotional, or behavioral functioning, and caused by physiological or psychosocial factors.

      Mental illness is a medical problem and our society and insurance
      providers must accept this.

  3. Digger says:

    An “active” liar??????? 🙂

  4. Digger says:

    Namecalling? “The quality of our lives is dependent on the collective quality of all lives Isn’t it likely we are all certifiably insane? lol

  5. ajamazin says:

    While we are discussing the topic of insanity:

    Apparently, O’Mara is certifiably insane!

    George Zimmerman’s Attorney To Speak At Gun Rights Policy Conference

    “If you were on George Zimmerman’s defense team, wouldn’t you want to stay away from people who celebrate gun possession at least until after your client’s trial given the fact that Zimmerman is regarded by many people as trigger-happy, reckless, and remorseless?

    On the other hand, maybe you do want to associate with gun fanatics because Zimmerman is trigger-happy, reckless, and remorseless? Zimmerman’s lawyer Mark O’Mara is slated to speak at a Gun Rights conference in Orlando, FL., according to an invitation from the organizers.”

    Or maybe O’Mara is a nothing more than a greedy, lying, hypocritical shyster.

    • At least he’s consistent . . . bad.

    • Two sides to a story says:

      Donations to GZLC are down, and according to comments on the GZLC FB, the Hannity interview didn’t spawn as many donations as hoped (no effin’ wonder!). CWC permit holders comprise the vast majority of GZ supporters. He’s likely fishing for donations and simultaneously showing his support of gun owners, whether he’s actually sincere or not, which is scary.

    • If Zimmerman is found guilty of murder, how is that an indictment on gun owners or the 2nd Amendment? You’re forgetting that the expressed narrative by many, like Crump or Natalie Jackson (not the Special Prosecutor or the State) is that going after Zimmerman is not a repudiation of gun owners or gun laws, but the statute encompassing “Stand Your Ground”. Perhaps there is some merit in the paranoia of those that think people want to take away their guns.

      • ajamazin says:

        justincaselawgic writes;

        “If Zimmerman is found guilty of murder, how is that an indictment on gun owners or the 2nd Amendment?”

        You are intentionally misrepresenting my comment.

      • I assure you it is completely unintentional.

        It was in relation to this:

        “wouldn’t you want to stay away from people who celebrate gun possession”

        and this:

        “maybe you do want to associate with gun fanatics because Zimmerman is trigger-happy, reckless, and remorseless?”

        Only you can explain what you meant by those remarks as it relates to a “Gun Rights Policy Conference” not some paranoid militia group.

      • ajamazin,

        Wow!! I’m fairly certain that is not an example of civil, yet passionate debate.

  6. Digger says:

    Dennis 8/05/12, 4:48am “I do not believe in afterlife”, I do and we
    are both fortunate to have our own take on the subject. I have often thought as you do, and ask what if??? If I do not believe in afterlife, which gives me purpose to live as a contributor of good then what is my purpose. If I do not find it believable to have an
    existence beyond the one I am in now, for me, this opens the door
    for my dark side to exist and have no compassion and respect of others. There would be no reason to not behave as any we speak of who do damage, murder, and all. No need to have a system on which we rely to protect others. It would constantly be “Dog Eat Dog” as grandma used to say.

    I am trying to imagine all the ways we would fall prey to each other in horrifying encounters. So for me, to believe in afterlife gives hope, gives opportunity to contribute to a society of decency and share in responsibilities. At natural death, if it then ends, so be it! Some may say fear of what happens in an afterlife leads us to believe. Don’t think so, because fear of my fellow man in the present far exceeds any fear of an afterlife. However, maybe this is where we have had our minds invaded with Heaven and Hell, Heaven or Hell right here and now seems to exist. With interest in the rampage of the like of James Eagan Holmes why would we be concerned at all if there is no afterlife, it would be just what happened one day, nothing more. Under such circumstance it seems we would be here with no emotions, no capacity to feel compassion, and that is exactly what many crime committing individuals appear to be, empty! Just an open opinion.

    • ajamazin says:

      “If I do not believe in afterlife, which gives me purpose to live as a contributor of good then what is my purpose. ”

      Perhaps the ‘purpose’ is to live and act in the present in harmony for the benefit of nature and all nature has created,

      The quality of each of our lives is dependent on the collective quality of all lives.

      I exist here and now and do not need the concept of an afterlife
      to shape my actions.

      • Zhickel says:

        It’s been said that the idea of Karma originated when humans started living permanently in communities of over 30 or 40 people; until then there was no need for the concept because in a small group no-one could avoid their communal and societal responsibilities.

        I agree with your comments. Do spiders, dogs, cats, snakes….need to justify their existence by believing in an afterlife?

      • ajamazin,

        If your existence is in the U.S., then your actions are shaped, in part, by the concept of an afterlife. It is inescapable. Rather than thinking people need it as a reason to do good, I think of it as a comfort to them because they ultimately fear death. Obviously this does not characterize everyone’s belief accurately, but if we KNEW what happened after death and, in knowing, KNEw that there was no afterlife, there would be no reason to believe. It is the unknown which is at the heart of fear.

  7. nan11 says:

    I had a psychiatrist tell me that individuals diagnosed with schizophrenia will usually become violent within the first year of their diagnosis. Like many other things—there can be exceptions.

    These people aren’t in control of their actions. The voices in their head are controlling them. Those voices are as real to them as the voices we hear in conversations with our friends.

    If society could find a way to execute the guilty ‘voices’, the people whose head they live in would probably stand in line for their ‘punishment’.

    As far as I know, medication, as it exists today, can only control these ‘voices’ for a certain amount of time. Sooner or later, those voices will rise again. That is a given.

    What to do with them? There is no easy answer, no right or wrong answer. It’s like arguing about the death penalty—both sides can cite ‘facts’ to support their cause.

    I think society just has to accept them as ‘burdens’ and do the best it ‘humanly’ can for them—for they are as sick as individuals with cancer.

    My heart breaks for the human beings whose lives he took, but my heart breaks for him, too.

    It would be wrong to seek the death penalty, imho.

    • nan11 says:

      Sorry to quote myself–but I am doing so only to make a correction:

      I said: quote: I had a psychiatrist tell me that individuals diagnosed with schizophrenia will usually become violet within the first year of their diagnosis.

      I should have added: …if they are likely to become violent at all.

      I apologize for omitting this important detail.

  8. Chi says:

    Jared Loughner will reportedly plead guilty in exchange for a life sentence. It’s also being reported that experts diagnosed him with schizophrenia and delusions, and he has been in a psych hospital being medicated against his will so that he could become competent to stand trial.
    Maybe Holmes did develop schizophrenia? I was under the impression a public rampage and murder doesn’t fit with schizophrenia but apparently that was wrong.

    • Patricia says:

      Chi, often schizophrenia is coupled with other mental illnesses.

      My belowed and wonderful stepson was finally diagnosed with schizophrenia after agoraphobia. Depression accompanied this.

      Peter was adopted as an infant in an era when no genetic health issues could be disclosed, so no one was able to pick up clues early. Apparently, first disclosure of any illness (before I knew him) was in his college years, but were “resolved.” (I think that means he was not correctly diagnosed). He was intelligent, articulate, often funny, spiritual, conscientious, politically aware, tall, handsome, a competitive swimmer, and very caring and loving to his friends and family. A talented sculptor and lighting engineer in the theatre industry. A guy everybody loved, and loved to be around – until he was crushed by his descent into mental illness. He was under the care of a psychiatrist, but not nearly the support system he needed.

      At 48, he hanged himself. The funeral was huge.

      • angela_nw says:

        Sorry to read of your loss Patricia. Sounds like he brought you much joy in his lifetime.

      • Patricia,

        I’m very sorry to hear about Peter’s story.

        Just as no one chooses to have cancer, no one chooses to be mentally ill, particularly schizophrenic. Yet, many people in our society still regard the mentally ill with suspicion and hostility instead of compassion. I have seen family members blame the person for coming down with the illness and shun them by pretending they do not exist.

        Our society treats the mentally with callous disrespect prosecuting them for minor criminal activity and warehousing them in jails and prisons. The largest “hospital” for the mentally ill in CA is the L.A. County Jail.

        Mental illness by itself is a difficult burden to bear. Our society increases that burden geometrically by blaming and shunning the mentally ill leaving them to fend for themselves without adequate public assistance.

        Sounds to me like Peter was fortunate to have you in his life.

        Namaste

  9. Digger says:

    Dennis, very good point re keeping pedophiles in solitary confinement until they go “insane”. I agree. it would be more humane to execute than keep alive that way. They certainly should not be turned out into society. So many variables, it is hard to be so positive for or against the DP, so maybe our justice system is
    not totally in error. There must be plenty of stories in fact that support it but I still believe that if it exists, all states should have it.
    Perhaps best to say I don’t believe in death, other than natural.

  10. TruthBTold says:

    Hi Professor,

    Regarding your next to last paragraph, I thought we don’t put individuals who are mentally ill to death?

    • aussie says:

      There are plenty of people who are mentally incompetent, by virtue of very low IQs, on death row.

      There are very few executions. The majority of those sentenced to death spend their lives in death row, a place with no way out — they can’t get parole and they don’t get executed. Their lives are truly over, with no hope for release, either way. Although I am against the death penalty, I believe holding people forever on death row is a much more cruel punishment.

      For murder in particular, the death penalty is no deterrent. But nor are most murderers going to do it again, particularly the heat-of-the-moment domestic killers, so locking them up for decades for “public safety” doesn’t make much sense.

      • Dennis says:

        I respect your opinion regarding the death penalty, but most prisoners on death row are kept in their own cell. Most pedophiles are kept in solitary confinement because they will be stabbed by any sane criminal. In that case you would have to choose between keeping a pedophile in lifetime solitary confinement versus executing them. Most people eventually go insane in solitary confinement. It would absolutely be more humane to execute pedophiles than keep them alive.

      • “There are plenty of people who are mentally incompetent, by virtue of very low IQs, on death row.”

        Mental incompetence has little to do with low intelligence.

        A person cannot be tried unless they are competent to stand trial.

        That means they have to oriented as to time and place, understand the nature of the charges against them and the possible penalties that might be imposed if they are convicted, recall the events that resulted in the charges, and be able to assist their attorneys to represent them. Intelligent people can be incompetent to stand trial, if they are psychotic and delusional.

        I doubt there are “many people on death row” who are incompetent.

        I do not doubt that there are people on death row whose mental functioning is impaired. They are characterized as having low intelligence and their IQ scores are probably below 80.

        Approximately 5 years ago, the SCOTUS held that the Cruel and Unusual Clause of the 8th Amendment prohibits executing a person if their IQ is below 75 (IIRC, that’s the number, although it might be lower.).

        You also said,

        “There are very few executions. The majority of those sentenced to death spend their lives in death row, a place with no way out — they can’t get parole and they don’t get executed. Their lives are truly over, with no hope for release, either way. Although I am against the death penalty, I believe holding people forever on death row is a much more cruel punishment.”

        With the exception of Texas, Florida, and Georgia the number of death penalty prosecutions and executions has been declining and this reflects declining support for the death penalty.

        Probably the most significant factor responsible for the decline in support is the number of of convictions and death sentences that have been reversed because of post-conviction DNA results that have exonerated them.

        The only people placed on death row are people who have been sentenced to death. They remain there until they are executed, unless their convictions and sentences are overturned or they are pardoned by the governor.

        Governors also can commute death sentences to a lesser sentence and when that happens, the inmate is removed from death row.

        The appeal process in a death case can take more than 20 years.

        Inmates who are sentenced to life without possibility of parole are typically placed together in a section of the prison reserved for inmates serving that sentence.

      • aussie says:

        Dennis, they could have a “pedophile unit” where they are not in solitary but only have each other for company.
        Story today WARNING HORRIFIC DETAILS

        http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2012/08/05/child-porn-ring-uncovered_n_1743599.html?icid=maing-grid7|main5|dl15|sec1_lnk2%26pLid%3D188388

        they only got 18 years.

        Where’s that thread about evil? these guys should feature in it prominently. There’s no heat of the moment in these crimes, and they know full well it is wrong.

  11. Digger says:

    I am not against the death penalty, I am against it being determined too soon in a case. I am not for the death penalty in crimes that are carried out by one who has been pushed to the point of no return. Aren’t we just as guilty of murder to initiate the death penalty for which those who have committed a crime deserving it Killing is killing, and BOTH have a pre-mediated desire. Ever think that those who execute get their fix legally, yet
    as crimes grow more and more what is proposed to do with the villan. How long before the financial burden to house is so overextended that all have to be set free? What then?

    The death penalty has not in any way deterred crime, murder!
    Can anyone claim evolution! Evolution, as we gradually change
    do we become snared in loose wires until they are attached to their
    designated proper location, we are those loose wires, and to think that evolution is headed for an existence of horror is indeed most
    horrifying.

    • Dennis says:

      I agree with the death penalty, but it is kind of a tossup when it comes to mentally ill people. Holmes knows what he did. I am not that stupid to believe that someone has no recollection regarding their actions. Am I supposed to believe that this person went into a magical trance and had no control over their actions. He isn’t mentally retarded, He damn well knew what he was doing. Just saying you did not remember is not proof that they didn’t remember.

  12. ajamazin says:

    “Now I want to discuss a different subject in the case; namely, the death penalty. ”

    I oppose the death penalty.

    Justice, is cases involving the death of others, is often code for revenge.

    Revenge has no worth and is counter to the best interests of a society.

    I am not sure how to define justice, for what has been lost can seldom be replaced. It is my view that the purpose of justice should be to prevent further injustice rather than exact punishment.

    If a person is found guilty in a capital murder case, then that
    person must be isolated from society to prevent future harm.

    • lynp says:

      Holmes is behing bars forever whether a locked ward in a maximum Security Hospital for the Criminally Insane, segregated isolation in a maximum security prison or on Death Row with 20 plus years of appeals. I think that like Jared, Holmes will never have a trial due to his mental insanity.
      I don’t support the Death Penalty cause it is too much trouble and spending a prisoner who spends the rest of their life in segregated isolation is severe punishment.

      • ajamazin says:

        LOS ANGELES TIMES

        Jared Loughner to plead guilty in Tucson shooting, sources say

        WASHINGTON — Jared Lee Loughner is set to plead guilty Tuesday in the shooting attack that severely wounded Rep. Gabrielle Giffords, according to knowledgeable sources, as mental health officials believe he is now competent to understand the charges.”

      • Dennis says:

        Your argument seems to be based on the idea that there is some sort of afterlife after this one. I do not believe in the afterlife and believe this life is your only shot. If you end someone’s life, you do not have the right to live in my opinion. If there is not a life after this one, then what is the point of punishing someone? The answer, completely useless.

    • Dennis says:

      Justice and revenge are just words in my opinion. I am very satisfied that you used basic morals in your debate, rather than jumping to some sort of religious explanation.

      I was actually reading an article discussing the pros and cons of the death penalty and they actually estimate that 18 lives are saved for every criminal executed. I have no idea where they came up with such statistics, but I have to agree that if even 9 of those people are saved, that is doing enough good in the world. Hundreds of people die everyday by US soldiers in stupid wars, but where is the bleeding hearts for them? I’ve seen more articles in support of keeping monsters alive than ending these pointless stupid wars engineered by the very people that control the entire world. Yes, the Illuminati is a proven concept and they do exist.

      • I am opposed to the death penalty in all cases for many reasons.

        Some of my reasons are:

        (1) The criminal-justice system does not produce sufficiently accurate and reliable results. Wrongful convictions of innocent people are in the news on a regular basis. Barry Sheck and Peter Neufeld’s Innocence Project has exonerated 279 people with exculpatory post-conviction DNA test results, for example. The error rate may be as high as 20%.

        For more information on innocence projects and what they are doing, please go to Barry and Peter’s innocence project website.

        (2) Death penalty cases cost taxpayers approximately three times as much as a life without parole sentence.

        For more information on the death penalty, please go to the Death Penalty Information Center.

      • ajamazin says:

        Dennis,

        They do, indeed, exist.

        Our endless wars are needed to feed the MIC, so we invent enemies and existential threats.

        “Hmm, a little boy shot in the head.
        Just another kid sent out to get some bread.
        Not the first murder nor the last,
        Again and again a repetition of the past.

        Try not to cry little one.
        You’re not alone, I’ll stand by you.”

  13. Digger says:

    The intent to “kill” often doesn’t come into full play until the killer reaches maturity but somewhere there must be an underlying reason to have come to that point in life, perhaps some disappointment, a loss themselves, a health problem that can never be resolved grows into a hatred for fellow mankind. Usually though, it is carried out in subtle ways, such as the constant need to hurt and humiliate by means of overrunning and building of lies against another to infiltrate a life with such great tenacity as they slowly but surely fulfill their need to “kill”, not necessarily by means of death to the physical, although the stress of having a steady thorn in the side can deteriorate the physical. It mostly causes such aggravation that will bring about a reaction of the victim, which many times verifies a “killers” reason, has a negative effect while bringing on withdrawal from society often leading to the victim’s demise by doing personal harm to themselves and overall harm to their families. So often attack is being done by a friend, a friend who the victim has given a great deal of trust therefore would never buck the inevitable outcome of the “killer” friend’s pleasure. Those who have a need to control which apparently leaves them with some sort of “sick” satisfaction, until the next unsuspecting, perhaps ignorant, of both the young and elderly are, so to speak, drawn into the spider’s web.

    To accomodate the death sentence scenarios suggestions, it is my opinion that in the USA it can not be done as long as each state has it’s own law pertaining to the act, and I do believe in such hideous crimes as are being covered by the many blogs in todays society there should be a death penalty the same in every state. in other countries who constantly find fault with USA and not their own should introduce a list of differences and to what degree there is advantage in their legal system that benefits the public overall to deter crime and enhance safety, particularly that of children.

    Just as we allow others to manipulate our lives daily, even in the professional fields, patients also manipulate their physicians and or psychiatrists. It is impossible to look at anyone and ever know how far they might go, at any future time, to eradicate another person. Usually the most damaging are those who illustrate a perfect mask in humanitarian expressed interests. Also it is concerning that adults constantly refer to the youth and their acts of violence while they, as adults seem to believe they have reached a certain age to be excused for the example one may be setting. For Holmes to receive the death penalty surely it would be important to examine thoroughly, all his behavior of the past, his family, and friends? Otherwise we can determine there is a misfit gene that has disrupted life to the death of another by their act, which leads to the ending of their own life.

    How sad, it is said, an eye for an eye. If it is determined there has been influence to have mind conditioned one to extreme violence then where do we find the influence and how do we eradicate it. Is it in our appreciated technology? our acceptance of violence on film? perhaps the moral shortcomings that has always existed in political circles. Money or lack of? How much do I or we, as we enjoy commenting our thoughts, reading other commenters do, to find solutions. Those that offer good solutions, are most often singular, it takes a widespread effort to bring about beneficial change. Imo, we are not going to make change.

    • ajamazin says:

      Violence is not the solution but rather the problem.

      A civilization that accepts or tolerates violence as a component of its system of justice will fall.

      The world is not flat and the earth is not the center of our solar system.

      And violence is not necessary for our survival and stops growth and progress.

      Civilizations die from suicide, not by murder.
      Arnold J. Toynbee

      • Dennis says:

        I agree that violence is not the solution to our problems. As I stated in my previous post, I believe that prison life is inhumane and cruel. In some prisons it is not so bad, but if you are sent to a maximum security prison that houses the most violent criminals, it is likely you will be raped and/or assaulted on a daily basis.

      • Two sides to a story says:

        Brilliant quotes.

    • ajamazin says:

      “That he was often superior in intellect, and aloof with a tendency to indicate his superiority.”

      That is how others saw him.

      1.] Many intellectually superior people are viewed with suspicion in a society that has embraced mediocrity.

      2.] Intellectually superior people may seem aloof because they lack social skills for successful interaction with others.

  14. ajamazin says:

    1.] “Holmes, a medical school dropout, opened fire at a midnight screening of the new Christopher Nolan flick, and then gave himself up in the parking lot to police while explaining that his apartment was rigged with explosives, officials said.”

    Why did Holmes alert the police to this fact?

    It is probable that Holmes knew the police would expect this additional danger, but is it possible he wanted to avoid further
    injuries and death?

    2.] Although Holmes was well armed and well equipped with
    protective gear, he chose to surrender.

    Did he fear death, had he met his goal, or did he have a moment of clarity when he realized what he had done?

    • Patricia says:

      I have not launched into past psychological discussions on any of the three individuals under recent discussion. I’m not a shrink and have not met any of them. But the news reports on Holmes brought two thoughts to mind:

      1. Holmes is the age at which schizoid illness often starts manifesting itself. This does not mean he would have a tendency to mass murder. So often, they self-destruct. Only a professional can diagnose.

      2. What hit me most were comments from earlier schoolmates. That he was often superior in intellect, and aloof with a tendency to indicate his superiority.

      While not much info is out there I understand the threats he uttered to his psychiatrist followed his Oral Exam. Well, we can figure he failed that. But the deteriorization may have started earlier (the gun club would not grant him membership based on his spooky answering machine message), he expected to screw up, and started masterminding the expression of the rage he felt toward the world. Took a lot of planning.

      I see a guy who figured, based on who he was, that “the world owed him success.”

      So here is my observation: this is a young man who never learned to handle failure. And that is an important skill to learn, because life is filled with failures, large, small, accidental, poor judgment, etc. But it is “the failure” who pulls up his sox, and moves forward, who becomes a success in his life – and the same for women as well. More opportunities for us to succeed mean more opportunities to fail – and not only learn from failure, but learn how to cope with failure. It’s not fun!

      One of the terrible things we teach our kids these days is that “Everybody gets a prize.” Well, the kids are smart and they know that not everybody won the competition. This cheapens the real trimphs.

      Holmes apparently had an easy time scholastically and was aware of how well regarded his brain was. Nice looking young man, and spent some time (but not much) in athletics.

      This may sound harsh, but in this complex world parents have to assign their kids tasks or hand them challenges at which they are NOT naturally talented. They need to struggle, and sometimes get results that offend them – because doing something poorly lowers their self esteem. Hell, if it was real esteem, it could stand a few dings. But in many case, this great esteem a lot of young people have today is terribly, terribly fragile.

      Holmes went back to school because, brilliant as he was, he couldn’t land a job. It’s far better being a team player, helping everybody’s best talents toward a goal, than being the smartest (and somewhat hostile) kid on the block. We have too many people thinking that what THEY want is the most important, whereas they are useless in a job – where the TEAM – and the PROJECT are most important.

      How to handle failure, and how to help others handle failure, is a skill that’s needed today, and even more in future.

      The real, working world is often alien to young people. They are too ME-concerned. Schools and families often foster this. Sadly, it really harms them in the life ahead.

      • lynp says:

        The smartest of the smart students are at MIT and Cal Tech not UC – Riverside so clearly he was not that brilliant. The brilliant PHD students are also at a top 25 school and not Colorado University. Looks like he was bright enough but clearly not in the top echolon of the brightest of the bright.
        As I understand it, without a PHD in Neuroscience, there is no job.

  15. Patricia says:

    As I grew older and gained a more mature way of thinking about the conditions of my fellow man and woman, I edged away from the death penalty.

    First, it has not proved to be a deterrent. In some cases, the existence of the death penalty can spur criminals to eliminate (i.e., kill) witnesses so the criminals don’t face the death penalty for their crimes. This just adds more victims.

    Second, the death sentence more often than not is a result of economic factors – the accused who got the cheapest defense.

    Third, it has executed the innocent.

    Nevertheless I feel there is a need to protect the most vulnerable in our society from rampant kiling: children.

    Likewise, police and fire personnel and certain government officials should be protected in the name of public order, which protects us all.

    But, for example, if you chop up a kid, no matter how “sick” you are, you have forfeited the right to life. I support the death penalty here.

    However, I do feel that the element of choice should exist for the punishment of capital crimes. A menu should be offered.

    You could get any of these:

    1. Life without parole in lieu of the death penalty.
    2. Death by injection, gas, electric chair, firing squad or hanging.
    3. Death by the means experienced by the victim.

    Of course, many murders are so heinous and protracted, that “means experienced by the victim” could fall athwart the “cruel and unusual punishment” prohibition, thus requiring legislation.

    But – if you kill by tossing a child into a vat of acid — well, it wouldn’t be all that unusual to YOU, would it? I mean, after all, that’s what YOU did, right? And as to “cruel,” its certainly not, by YOUR standards.

    So you have the investigation, the trial, the deliberation, the veridict -and the sentence, as chosen. Pick any means from the “Death Penalty Menu.”

    Well, not chosen by you, Mr. Kid Killer.

    Choice to be made by next-of-kin of the victim.

    • lynp says:

      From what I have read, without a PHD in Neurosciene, there is no job.

      • Patricia says:

        Holmes interviewed for jobs and couldn’t get one (I don’t know what those jobs were) so he decided to go back for his PhD.

        But he evidently blew the Oral Exam and was furious – at the world. I sense there was some personality disintegration before the interview because so much acquisiton and planning went into his final blowout, much of which must have pre-dated the Exam.

        I don’t know any field where your education is useless except for one precise job. And at his age, he was STARTING in his career. Many people with specialized degrees branch off as they get exposed to the wider world of science and other fields.

        I surmise he expected to be welcomed by his interviewers for his brilliance; was likely demanding; and had poor interview skills.

        Failing the Oral Exam was the last in a recent string of failures and I think he was just not prepared for failure. Not easy being brilliant!

    • Dennis says:

      I respect your opinion regarding the death penalty, but the unfortunate truth is prisons are inhumane cruel places to put a human being. There is a slim chance of rehabilitation. It is a proven fact that most people that go to prison will be released and continue the same life of crime. Prison is not about rehabilitation, it is about suffering. Most criminals will become conditioned to incarceration to the point that they can’t function as a normal human being once released. For most prisoners serving over 15 years, it would be more humane to put a bullet in their head and call it a day. I am against all human and animal suffering. I would like to hear the opinions of everyone else here.

      • Chi says:

        I spent years working in the state prison system, and I fully agree with you that prisons are inhumane and cruel places, and prison is NOT about rehabilitation. I’m not sure what the answer is, but I came across many people who were not killers, rapists or violent, and it broke my heart to see so much suffering.

        • According to the U.S. Census 2012 report, we had approximately 1.6 million people incarcerated in federal, state and county/city jails.

          More than half (approximately 55%) were convicted of non-violent drug offenses. Many of them were convicted of marijuana offenses.

          According to the same report, we had another 7.2 million people on federal and state probation or parole.

          My wife, who blogs using the name Crane-Station, was innocent and wrongfully convicted of a non-violent drug offense. She was sentenced to 8 years in prison paroled after serving 2 years.

          Her Petition for a Writ of Certiorari is pending before the SCOTUS.

          She has written a non-fiction account of her experiences in two county jails and the women’s penitentiary.

          Here is a link to one of the chapters, Pregnancy Disaster in Jail.

          The title of her book is Frog Gravy.

      • ajamazin says:

        “For most prisoners serving over 15 years, it would be more humane to put a bullet in their head and call it a day.”

        And if it were your head?

      • aussie says:

        Frederick, that is a horrific story. I hope and pray your poor wife has at least partly recovered from her experience.

        Looking from outside, the whole US “justice” system seems archaic and penal rather than justice.

        I live in a former penal colony, but possession of personal-use amounts of marijuana only costs the confiscation of the drug and a $100 fine, less than some parking fines are. Marijuana use is no more rife here than in the US, so your jail sentences don’t seem to act as deterrents.

        Defendants are only held on remand for serious offences. Many are released on their own recognisance, yet most turn up for court. Nobody is shackled, least of all 12 year olds. Sober non-resisting offenders are not even handcuffed when arrested.

        (And prisoners automatically regain their voting rights the day they leave prison, too).

        Our prisons are not holiday camps, of course, but from low-security ones prisoners are allowed out during the day to go to work, as their release approaches, so they have a start to establishing a crime-free life when they get out.

      • Two sides to a story says:

        I’d have to agree. Our prisons need reform beyond what most people imagine if people are going to emerge from them healed and ready to roll.

  16. Chi says:

    Professor I am curious as to why you think Holmes may have developed schizophrenia? Is it mainly because of Fenton’s specialty?
    According to the National Institute of Mental Health:

    News and entertainment media tend to link mental illness and criminal violence; however, studies indicate that except for those persons with a record of criminal violence before becoming ill, and those with substance abuse or alcohol problems, people with schizophrenia are not especially prone to violence.

    Most individuals with schizophrenia are not violent; more typically, they are withdrawn and prefer to be left alone. Most violent crimes are not committed by persons with schizophrenia, and most persons with schizophrenia do not commit violent crimes.

    Substance abuse significantly raises the rate of violence in people with schizophrenia but also in people who do not have any mental illness. People with paranoid and psychotic symptoms, which can become worse if medications are discontinued, may also be at higher risk for violent behavior. When violence does occur, it is most frequently targeted at family members and friends, and more often takes place at home.

    (end copy)

    This doesn’t seem to fit Holmes… ??
    Perhaps there is another disorder that causes sudden violent behavior?

  17. crazy1946 says:

    If it is determined that Mr. Holmes meets the requirements for a plea of insanity, could the state remove several of the charges and wait until and if he is found sane at a later point in time and then try him on those charges? Would that be a violation of his rights?

    • Unlikely, because insanity as a defense to a charge is disappearing due to the difficulty proving it, and even if the defense is successful, the defendant typically goes to prison where he does not receive any treatment.

      As a practical matter, insanity is more useful to support an argument for charge reduction as part of a plea bargain. In this sense, it’s similar to a diminished capacity argument.

      Plea bargains that do not wrap up all pending charges and additional charges under consideration are worthless.

      No experienced lawyer would allow his client to be set up like that.

      • Dennis says:

        I admire that you defend people to protect them from the death penalty. I respect your beliefs regarding the death penalty, even if I do not agree. However, I am somewhat troubled as to why people are talking about the monster killer than the victims, and I am sure you could possibly agree. We need to help the families of the victims recover, not talk about the suspect. It sickens me every time I hear or see the name or face of the suspect. I will not even acknowledge him by name.

        • ajamazin says:

          The families of victims can best ‘recover’ when grief, anger, and hatred are channeled into a useful purpose.

          I refuse to be a victim and I choose to be more than a survivor .

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