Colorado theater shooter views death, life sentences as equal punishments

Reuters News
Posted: Jun 02, 2015 6:10 PM

By Keith Coffman

DENVER (Reuters) - Colorado cinema gunman James Holmes told a psychiatrist that he views life in prison and execution as equal punishments but wants his life spared out of concern for his family, jurors in his capital murder trial heard on Tuesday.

The disclosure from the former neuroscience graduate student now on trial for opening fire in a Denver-area cinema came during a videotaped interview session conducted last year by court-appointed psychiatrist William Reid that was shown in court.

Holmes, 27, has pleaded not guilty by reason of insanity to fatally shooting 12 moviegoers and wounding dozens more during a shooting rampage at a midnight screening of the Batman film “The Dark Knight Rises” in July 2012.

Prosecutors have charged Holmes with multiple counts of first-degree murder and attempted murder, and have said they will seek the death penalty for the California native if he is convicted.

Asked by the psychiatrist how he felt about facing possible execution, Holmes said during the session that before he was arrested, he thought capital punishment would be worse than a life sentence but now sees them as equal.

But he added that he wants his defense lawyers to fight against execution because his family still supports him.

“I think it would matter if I died to them,” he said, adding that his parents and sister would be sad and miss him if he were executed.

Public defenders have said their client suffers from schizophrenia and was not in control of his actions at the time. Reid has testified that he concluded that Holmes was sane when he plotted and carried out the attack, although he had a mental breakdown in jail months after the massacre.

Holmes recounted in the video that he was not nervous and had been “calm and collected” before he launched the attack. Once inside the theater, his mind went on “autopilot” as he sprayed the crowd with gunfire. He did recall seeing one victim get struck.

Holmes also told Reid that other jail inmates call him the “Joker,” the evil adversary of Batman, but said he did not dye his hair red to resemble the fictional character, but rather to look more “exotic” on dating websites.

Nevertheless, he does not think the moniker is a bad thing: “It makes me feel like they kind of turned me into a supervillain,” he said.

(Editing by Cynthia Johnston)