AURORA | James Holmes was sane enough to know what he was doing — and the consequences of his actions — when he opened fire on an Aurora movie theater, one of the psychiatrists who examined Holmes told jurors Thursday, May 28.
Dr. William Reid didn’t say Holmes was free of mental illness, but said he was not insane.
“Whatever he suffered from did not prevent him from forming the intent and knowing the consequences of what he was doing,” Reid said.
Reid made the comment without being asked by District Attorney George Brauchler, leading to a lengthy discussion at the judge’s bench before the court broke for lunch. Reid was only supposed to give his opinion on whether Holmes had the capacity for sanity, not if he was sane.
The remarks from Reid prompted Holmes’ lawyers to ask for a mistrial or for the judge to at least strike the comment from the record.
Judge Carlos Samour Jr. disagreed and instead gave the jurors an instruction explaining Colorado’s legal definition of sanity.
Reid was on the stand for about an hour before prosecutors showed the jury a two-hour interview Reid conducted with Holmes in July 2014 at the state mental hospital.
The segment of the video showed Thursday didn’t touch on Holmes’ mental state and instead was largely Reid trying to get to know Holmes, asking questions about his time in college, his family and his time in jail.
In the interview, Holmes gave short answers to Reid’s questions. When Reid asked Holmes how he thinks his arrest affected his family, Holmes replied: “Negatively.”
Holmes told Reid he sometimes has trouble sleeping and cries at night because he has “regrets.” When Reid pressed him about what, Holmes said: “About the shooting.”
When asked to describe himself, Holmes said he was “shy” and “kind.”
As the video played, Holmes sat quietly at the defense table, rarely glancing at the screen and instead staring straight ahead.
Reid told the jury he didn’t rely solely on his interviews with Holmes to reach his conclusions. He also reviewed hours of surveillance footage of Holmes in jail, particularly video from the first few days Holmes was in jail. That footage close to the time of the attack is especially important, Reid said.
“The further out you get, what he is doing or feeling becomes less likely to be directly related to the way he was or what he was capable of,” he said.
Reid also read reports from doctors who treated Holmes before the theater shooting as well as doctors who examined him after. Reid met with Holmes’ parents, too, and visited the jail to get a feel for Holmes’ living environment before he interviewed him in late July 2015.
Reid said Holmes is on a relatively low dose of the anti-psychotic drug Risperdal as well as the anti-depressant Lexapro. He is also on a modest regimen of the drug Congentin, which is targeted at treating the side effects of the first two medications, including trembling hands, a restless feeling in the legs and weight gain, according to Reid. He added that Holmes has been on the trio of drugs since November or December 2012, when the defendant had a “serious mental and physical breakdown,” while incarcerated.
Reid’s testimony could be lengthy as prosecutors could show a total of 22 hours of recorded interviews with Holmes. Reid is expected to take the stand again Friday with more, albeit redacted, video to be shown.
The defense has argued Reid’s assessment of Holmes’ mental state at the time of the shooting is wrong. Holmes’ lawyers also objected to Reid examining him at all following evaluations from state doctors.