The preliminary hearing in the criminal trial of James Holmes has begun in Colorado. Holmes is the depraved, indifferent mass murderer responsible for the death of 12 innocent lives in Aurora, Colorado. Holmes entered a darkened theater in a gun free zone playing the movie Batman: The Dark Knight Rises and, using a variety of firearms, including semi-automatic weapons with high capacity magazines/drums, unleashed a barrage of bullets that killed 12 and wounded 58 movie goers. He has not entered a plea but it has been speculated that his lawyers are contemplating an insanity defense.
The Aurora, Colo., incident will be a case study for law enforcement, legal, medical, and political scholars for years to come. The elements involved are a use case that sheds light on the intersection of guns, violence, society, and the economy.
Gun Control: Holmes fired 33 bullets into 12 people. “Police recovered 209 live AR-15 rounds and 15 live .40 caliber handgun rounds,” according to police testimony. He fired a 12-gauge Remington 870 Express Tactical, a Smith & Wesson M&P 15 semi-automatic rifle with a 100-round drum magazine, and a Glock 22 handgun. Another Glock was found in his car. The M&P 15 semi-automatic rifle with a 100-round drum magazine jammed after thirty rounds or things could have been worse. The theater he chose was the only one with a gun free policy in the 20 minute radius from his home. Like all gun control facts, these can be used by both sides to further their argument. The guns were legally obtained, but if there had been armed guards maybe they could have prevented the tragedy. If the high capacity magazine and semi-automatic weapon were banned under the Assault Weapons Ban, then maybe Holmes would not have been able to carry out his deed.
Mental Health Care: Was he insane and did we have the means to prevent the tragedy or treat his mental disorder? Our approach to signs of mental illness is to stigmatize and medicate only if you seek treatment and have insurance. The trade-off between the desired effect of much of the medication and the unintended effects leaves many deciding to not take the drugs. The stigmatization of mental disease stops some from seeking treatment. Insurance and cost can be a barrier. Interestingly, I don’t recall much said from Secretary of Health and Human Services Kathleen Siebelus on how Obamacare addresses mental health care and its relationship to gun violence.
Capital Punishment: Colorado is a death penalty state, but Holmes will avoid the death penalty with a successful insanity defense. So far, the prosecution has not filed capital murder charges. However if they do, either way it is going to cost the taxpayers a lot of money to determine the final disposition of the Holmes murder case. A convicted mass murderer found guilty of a capital crime should not get to extend his life on the taxpayer’s dime. A defendant should get all the opportunity necessary to defend his case, but if the state has the death penalty then get it over with as expeditiously as possible. There shouldn’t be an automatic appeal. This is an inverted view to double jeopardy. Essentially, the defendant gets to prove innocence and/or request leniency in sentencing twice.
Victims’ Rights: Will there be “justice” for the surviving victims. What must it be like to know that if Holmes chooses an insanity defense then all the tests and evaluations are paid for by taxpayer dollars? If it is a capital murder case, then the appeal process is borne by taxpayer dollars and if he is found guilty, his cost of living and treatment is borne by the victim’s taxpayer dollars. That is not justice. That is some perverted form of welfare.
Parental Control: Questions surround the wisdom of allowing some of these young kids in the theater for a midnight showing. It is not their fault that they were victimized, it just begs the question as to whether they should have been out that late for a movie that would have got them home at 3:00 a.m.
The Economy: That brings us to the economy. The youngest victim, Veronica Moser-Sullivan, was 6 years old. Her mother suffered a miscarriage. There were other young couples with children that were more fortunate. Two income young families that probably could not afford a baby sitter found themselves out on a much deserved family night out/date.
Society and Violence: Holmes dyed his head reddish-orange in the image of “The Joker.” A maniacal sociopath made famous by The Dark Knight. He also booby-trapped his home. Did life imitate art in the most grotesque manifestation imaginable?