Holmes has pleaded not guilty to 24 counts of murder and 140 counts of attempted murder by reason of insanity in the shootings

Credit: RJ Sangosti/The Denver Post/Getty

In his closing arguments Tuesday, District Attorney George Brauchler emphasized that James Holmes was “sane” when he opened fire in an Aurora, Colorado, movie theater, leaving 12 people dead and injuring 70 more in July of 2012.

Holmes has pleaded not guilty to 24 counts of murder and 140 counts of attempted murder by reason of insanity in the shootings. He’s also charged with possession of explosives.

Brauchler began by urging jurors not to confuse mental disease with someone who rejects society’s norms. He went on to point to a number of instances before, during and after Holmes’ assault on the theater that showed the 27-year-old was not mentally impaired.

First, he noted that people who knew Holmes never saw any indication that he was insane prior to the attack. Brauchler added that Holmes took steps to prevent his victims from leaving the theater, showing forethought.

“He purchases tickets just like everybody else,” Brauchler said. “He wants everybody at the theater to see him as no threat.”

And after the shootings, Holmes realized that he was going to be caught, Brauchler said. So he surrendered. “You know what he’s concerned about?” Brauchler said. “Him getting shot. He doesn’t want to get shot or hurt. It’s all about him.”

Brauchler also pointed to Holmes’ booby-trapped apartment, which he had rigged to explode, as a sign that Holmes tried to create a distraction, diverting police resources from the theater, just four miles away.

“He plans for contingencies,” Brauchler told the court.

The defense has argued that Holmes was mentally ill when he acted three years ago. “I find no non-psychotic reasons for [the shootings],” Dr. Raquel Gur testified last week. Brauchler questioned her credibility at the time, noting that she never followed up on Holmes’ alleged hallucinations.

In his closing arguments, he also attacked Gur for not videotaping her interviews with Holmes and misusing his quotes. “We need facts, not essence,” he said.

Brauchler noted that two court-appointed psychiatrists both concluded that Holmes was legally sane at the time of the shooting.

“He is sane,” Brauchler emphasized towards the end of his closing arguments. “And he was on the 19th and 20th of July.”

He repeated: “Sane. Sane Reject this claim that he couldn’t form the intent to murder.”

“That guy was sane beyond a reasonable doubt,” he concluded, “and he needs to be held accountable for what he did.”

The Defense Makes a Final Plea

But defense attorney Daniel King disputed this and asked the jury to consider Holmes’ insanity plea. “We in this country seem to be in denial about mental illness,” King said in his closing arguments.

He went on to say that this must change. “This is the place and the time is now,” he said. “And it’s going to take strength.”

King argued that the existence of a mental defect has been proven beyond a doubt. “That mental illness affected his thoughts,” he said. “All the experts have said that that must be taken into consideration.”

He then spoke about Holmes’ family history. “Mr. Holmes is genetically loaded for psychotic mental illness,” said King. “Both of his grandfathers were hospitalized for psychotic mental illnesses.”

He added: “We know for a fact that his aunt was diagnosed some 30 years ago with schizophrenia.”

Earlier, Brauchler insisted that having a mental illness does not mean that Holmes should be considered legally insane.

If convicted, Holmes faces the death penalty.

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