After killing 12 people and injuring 58 more, many people are already arguing about the mental health of suspected Colorado shooter, James Holmes and whether he will plead insanity as a defense for his horrific rampage. If he does, it could mean he will not be held accountable for his actions–something that will make a complete mockery out of our mental health system and anyone battling a mental illness.
Even after his shooting spree, the potentially deadly way he designed his apartment, and his bizarre dazed and uninterested court appearance, Dr. Gail Saltz told Today that that’s not enough to judge his mental state.
In a snapshot, you cannot tell if someone is psychiatrically ill. They will really need to do a very in-depth psychiatric examination and probably psychological testing, and they’ll have to look at the history, sort of, going back to determine if there’s any reason for an insanity defense.
On the other hand, legal expert, Linda Kenney Baden says he clearly looked and acted like a sociopath.
Think about the conduct that he did in buying, getting dressed, the ritual and putting on the gear, painting his body red…I think this behavior was consistent with somebody that could easily be a sociopath.
Other legal experts, like Harvey Steinberg, told Today that Holmes may plead insanity:
I think that’s going to be the only option that the defense has. The question becomes, mentally, did you understand what you were doing and should you be held accountable for committing the crime. Insanity says I did it, but I can’t be held accountable because of my mental state.
In order for a defendant to plead insanity, their defense has to prove that he didn’t know the difference between right and wrong and that he had an “irresistible impulse” that exceeded his knowledge of what is right and wrong. Saltz also stated that just because Holmes did these things does not mean he necessarily has a psychiatric illness, although there were likely warning signs such as anger, depression, disenfranchised, paranoid, etc., which no one picked up on or did anything about.
But even if his defense does argue that he was mentally insane, here’s the thing: That makes a mockery out of our mental health system and anyone who has a mental illness. It says that people with a psychiatric illness are not always accountable for the things they do while suffering this condition, which is a dangerous message to send to our society. Mental condition or not, people are responsible for their actions, and someone like Holmes should never be allowed any type of concessions because of this. His actions were clearly premeditated and methodical, and he knew exactly what he was doing.
So is Holmes insane? At this point, we don’t know. It could be months before his arraignment where he will plead guilty, not guilty or guilty by reason of insanity.
Until then, tell us what you think. Should a plea of insanity even be considered here?