CO Theater Shooting Trial A Test For Expanded Mental Health Network


With opening statements set for Monday in the trial of James Holmes for the Aurora, Co., theater killings, graphic details kept from the public by a court’s gag order will surface. Counselors tell the Associated Press that could trigger flashbacks, nightmares, and other traumatic responses that test the mental health support networks Colorado has tried to strengthen since 12 people were killed and 70 others were wounded during a midnight screening of “The Dark Knight Rises.” Pierce O’Farrill, who was shot three times in the attack, anticipates testifying. He thought would die on the theater floor, his face surreally covered with popcorn. He has relied on faith and counseling to get through.

Holmes’ lawyers have acknowledged he was the theater shooter, but they say he was in the grips of a psychotic episode. He has pleaded not guilty by reason of insanity. His mind state will be at issue during the trial, which will proceed after a judge denied defense attorneys’ request to move the death penalty case out of Arapahoe County. Jurors, who will be closest to the grisly photos and testimony, will have access to counseling after the trial. The rampage put so much focus on mental health, both of Holmes and of his victims, that the state funded a $20 million expansion of services, which included a 24-hour hotline and a dozen new drop-in crisis centers, an approach taken in other states after mass shootings. Colorado mental health professionals hope to help at-risk people before they turn violent.

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