James Holmes’ Notebook Full of Ramblings, but Insanity Defense is Tough Sell

What James Holmes did in a crowded Colorado movie theater can easily be called “crazy,” but his well-thought-out plan of action, along with a notebook filled with rambling words and delusions, shows that there’s no easy answer to what drives someone to gun down 12 people.

Can Holmes Escape Execution?

The New York Times reports that Holmes recognized he had a serious problem and made attempts at self-diagnosis of what he referred to as his “broken mind.” His writings, along with hours of psychiatric interviews, are now at the crux of a trial where jurors must determine whether he understood the difference between right and wrong at the time he committed the infamous movie theater murders during a midnight showing of The Dark Knight Rises in 2012.

There’s a lot at stake for Holmes, who faces the death penalty if his bid fails to be found not guilty by reason of insanity. While he’s unquestionably mentally ill, his lawyers must prove he was unable to differentiate right from wrong when he committed the killings.

Insanity Defense Successful for Yates

If Holmes is successful at evading execution, he’ll join other high-profile killers like Andrea Yates, who drowned her five children in the bathtub and was initially convicted of murder. Yates, who had a long history of mental problems, insisted she’d drowned them to save their souls. At a retrial four years later, the jury agreed with her insanity defense, resulting in commitment to a state mental hospital rather than a jail cell.

Holmes likely faces an uphill battle to get the same result as Yates. As a mother with a history of postpartum depression, she was a much more sympathetic defendant than someone who decked himself out for combat and attacked others with an assortment of weapons. Officials say his trial is likely the first time an accused murderer has tried the insanity defense in a death penalty case in Colorado.

Psychiatrist Says Holmes was Sick but Sane

Dr. William Howard Reid, the psychiatrist who interviewed Holmes for 22 hours about his crimes, told the prosecutor that he believes that the killer was legally sane, though mentally ill, during the murders.

In addition to the 12 killings, Holmes is charged with injuring 70 additional people. In total, he’s up against 165 charges.