Colorado Shooting suspect, James Holmes is being formally charged with the deaths of 12 people and injuring 58 others. Of course, the only real defense can be that Holmes is “insane” if his lawyers are to prevent the death penalty.
The question of whether Holmes knew right from wrong when he walked into a Colorado movie theater and took 12 people’s lives and wounded 58 others will be a tough challenge for both of the legal sides as well as for psychiatric assessments to determine. Obviously, someone who has those types of impulses, is not a well person to begin with but, the question remains as to whether he truly is incapable of knowing right from wrong.
The law in Colorado concerning Criminal Insanity states that a person must not be able to know right from wrong due to a mental illness but, goes on to stress, “care should be taken not to confuse such mental disease or defect with moral obliquity, mental depravity, or passion growing out of anger, revenge, hatred, or other motives, and kindred evil conditions.”
Allegedly, Holmes had been seeing a psychiatrist at the university he was attending to study neurosciences, ironically enough. While it’s unclear as to whether Holmes was seeing this psychiatrist for personal counselling or for other purposes, what is clear is that Holmes had issues that needed to be dealt with in some fashion or another as he had allegedly been stock-piling weapons for an assault throughout May and June of this year.
Sadly, Holmes had been able to purchase four guns legally prior to the shooting. He’d bought a semiautomatic rifle, a shotgun and two pistols, having to pass a background check which takes only about 20 minutes to do in Colorado. With no criminal record, Holmes was easily able to buy those guns and harbour them. Aurora police also say that he had booby-trapped his apartment so as to kill any police officers who entered his apartment.
What is unclear at this time is the question of whether or not Holmes actually was seeing the university’s psychiatrist, Dr. Lynne Fenton as a patient, for how long or, in what other capacity she may have been seeing him. Allegedly, he had sent a package to her office prior to the shooting at the movie theater but, those details have yet to be disclosed.
Even with a plea of insanity, one would have to wonder if indeed, Holmes was truly insane. Having been a neuroscience student, it would have given him plenty of access to knowledge of mental diseases on which to build an “act” and perhaps, outsmart assessments. If one has enough knowledge about certain mental disorders, it is quite possible for Holmes to “fake” the symptoms, know the answers to give and perhaps, cleanly fool authorities into believing he is mentally ill. Certainly the stunned/dazed looks he was reported to give in court could well been that of someone who was simply acting the part of a diagnosis he’s imitating.
The other question that can be asked is whether he was garnering information from the university psychiatrist to set the stage for an insanity plea or whether he truly was insane and seeking help?
It’s been said that those who are truly insane, don’t know it so, if in fact, Holmes had been seeing a psychiatrist for counselling, it may be that Holmes was not truly criminally insane because it would demonstrate that on some level or another, he knew “right from wrong”.
It also raises the question of whether the psychiatrist had picked up on this man’s intents or warning signs that should have been reported to authorities. While there is doctor-patient confidentiality to consider, it is understood that if a psychiatrist knows that a patient is a danger to themselves or anyone else, that clause goes out the window. Did she know? Or, was she being “played” as well by Holmes?
If in fact, Holmes is criminally insane then, the gun laws need to be revamped to ensure that innocent people aren’t killed by someone who can so easily and legally obtain guns, period.