Colorado Theater Shooter’s Notebook Playing Big Role In Insanity Defense


The notebook that James Holmes mailed to his psychiatrist shortly before he opened fire in a sold-out Colorado movie theater has been one of the most important pieces of evidence in the murder case against him. It has been stored under seal, and the murderous fantasies and rambling writings inside have been shielded from public view. This week, reports the New York Times, prosecutors entered the notebook into evidence and passed out copies in the courtroom, giving jurors one of the darkest, most direct glimpses yet into the mind of Holmes, the former neuroscience student who killed 12 people and wounded 70 others in Aurora, Co., in 2012.

The notebook offered a prism for Holmes's mental state, and each side in the case tried to point jurors toward sections that underscored its view of his mind-set. Prosecutors emphasized pages in which he pondered the most ruthless way to kill people and sketched out which theater to attack. Defense lawyers, who argue that he is not guilty by reason of insanity, highlighted pages of runic symbols; nonsensical equations about life and death, infinity and “negative infinity”; and pages covered with the word “Why?” Holmes debated whether to attack an airport, but decided against it, saying that security would be too tight and that his actions might be misconstrued as terrorism. “Terrorism isn't the message,” he wrote. “The message is there is no message.” “Rarely is there a case, as we have here, where a defendant is giving the jury a journal of what is going on in his head in the months, weeks, and days before,” said David Beller, president of the Colorado Criminal Defense Bar.

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