Prosecutor: 2 exams found James Holmes to be sane

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Insanity Defense for James Holmes Could Prove Difficult

CENTENNIAL, Colo. (AP) -- A prosecutor declared Monday that two mental health evaluations found Colorado theater gunman James Holmes to be sane.

It was the first public word on what different psychiatrists determined after examining the former neuroscience student accused of killing 12 people and wounding 70 at a midnight "Batman" premiere.

The statement by District Attorney George Brauchler marked the start of a long-awaited, lengthy and emotionally wrenching trial to determine if he'll be executed, spend his life in prison, or be committed to an institution as criminally insane.

Holmes pleaded not guilty by reason of insanity to 166 counts, including first-degree murder, attempted murder and an explosives offense, after the mayhem he caused in suburban Denver on July 20, 2012. It remains one of America's deadliest shootings, and that Holmes was the lone gunman has never been in doubt. He was arrested at the scene, along with an arsenal of weapons on his body and in his car.

His fate depends on whether a jury agrees that he was unable to know right from wrong because of a mental illness or defect three years ago, when he slipped into the midnight Batman premiere, unleashed tear gas and marched up and down the aisles, firing at people who tried to flee.

"Through this door is horror. Through this door are bullets, blood, brains and bodies. Through this door, one guy who thought as if he had lost his career, lost his love life, lost his purpose, came to execute a plan," said Brauchler, standing before a scale model of the theater.

"Four-hundred people came into a boxlike theater to be entertained, and one person came to slaughter them," the prosecutor said.

Holmes sat quietly as Brauchler played a video recording of one of the psychiatric evaluations. In it, Holmes told a doctor he "only counts fatalities," and described the people he wounded as "collateral damage."

Each side was allowed two hours for opening statements, with public defenders Daniel King and Katherine Spengler following his presentation.

Defense lawyers say Holmes was in the grips of a psychotic episode and could not tell right from wrong when he went on the rampage. His parents, Robert and Arlene Holmes, in pleading for his life, have called their son a "human being gripped by a severe mental illness."

Under Colorado law, the burden falls on the state to prove beyond a reasonable doubt that he was "NOT insane," Judge Carlos A. Samour Jr., told the jury. And that, in turn, depends in part on "a culpable state of mind:" If Holmes acted with deliberation and intent - willfully taking actions that he knew would kill people -- then even if he had mental problems, he should be found guilty of murder, the judge said.

Prosecutors allege that Holmes planned the violence for months, buying a rifle, a shotgun, two pistols, tear gas canisters, body armor, thousands of rounds of ammunition and a chemical stockpile that turned his 800-square-foot apartment into a booby trap that might have caused a conflagration.

"He tried to murder a theater full of people to make himself feel better and because he thought it would increase his self-worth," Brauchler said. "I would like to focus on the victims," he said, but instead he must prove that Holmes was not insane.

The state has already spent millions seeking that verdict, managing an outsized number of victims, witnesses and more than 85,000 pages of evidence. Nearly three years passed hundreds of motions were filed in legal debates over capital punishment and insanity pleas.

Insanity defenses are successful in only 25 percent of felony trials nationally, even less so in homicides.

"Lay people tend to think of people with mental illness as extremely dangerous, and that also influences jurors, especially if someone has killed someone," said Christopher Slobogin, who teaches law and psychiatry at Vanderbilt Law School. "Usually there's evidence of intent and planning that seems to be counterintuitive to the lay view of mental illness."

Winning a trial on mental-health grounds is rare, but then again, so are jury trials for mass shooters. Most are killed by police, kill themselves or plead guilty.

A review of 160 mass shootings found killers went to trial 74 times, and just three were found insane, according to Grant Duwe, a Minnesota corrections official who wrote the book "Mass Murder in the United States: A History."

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Prosecutor: 2 exams found James Holmes to be sane
Crime scene tape surrounds the Century 16 movie theater where 12 people were killed in a shooting rampage last Friday, on July 23, 2012 in Aurora, Colorado. Suspect James Holmes, 24, allegedly went on a shooting spree and killed 12 people and injured 58 during an early morning screening of 'The Dark Knight Rises.' (Photo by Kevork Djansezian/Getty Images)
FILE - In this Friday, July 20, 2012 file photo, Tom Sullivan, center, embraces family members outside Gateway High School where he has been searching franticly for his son Alex Sullivan who celebrated his 27th birthday by going to see "The Dark Knight Rises," movie where a gunman opened fire, in Aurora, Colo. (AP Photo/Barry Gutierrez)
Investigators remove computer equipment as evidence from the apartment of alleged gunman James Holmes, Saturday, July 21, 2012 in Aurora, Colo. Authorities reported that 12 died and more than three dozen people were shot during an assault at a movie theatre midnight premiere of "The Dark Knight Rises." (AP Photo/Alex Brandon)
Aurora police top brass commander Jack Daluz (R), Roger Cloyd (C) and division chief Kevin Flynn visit the makeshift memorial across the street from the Century 16 movie theater on July 25, 2012 in Aurora, Colorado. Twenty-four-year-old James Holmes is suspected of killing 12 and injuring 58 others on July 20 during a shooting rampage at a screening of 'The Dark Knight Rises' in Aurora, Colorado. (Photo by Kevork Djansezian/Getty Images)
Seen from the air, blood-stained footprints dot the back of the Century 16 movie theatre where suspect James Holmes went on a shooting rampage during an early morning screening of the new Batman movie, 'The Dark Knight Rises' on July 21, 2012 in Aurora, outside of Denver, Colorado. According to reports, 12 people have been killed and over 59 injured including 9 in critical condition . Police have the suspect, twenty-four year old James Holmes of North Aurora, in custody. (Photo by Kevork Djansezian/Getty Images)
AURORA, CO - JULY 21: Seen from the air, police continue to investigate outside the Century 16 movie theatre where suspect James Holmes went on a shooting rampage during an early morning screening of the new Batman movie, 'The Dark Knight Rises' on July 21, 2012 in Aurora, outside of Denver, Colorado. According to reports, 12 people have been killed and over 59 injured including 9 in critical condition . Police have the suspect, twenty-four year old James Holmes of North Aurora, in custody. (Photo by Kevork Djansezian/Getty Images)
AURORA, CO - JULY 21: Law enforcement officials tow nearby cars as they prepare to disarm the booby-trapped apartment of suspect James Holmes after he went on a shooting rampage at nearby Century 16 movie theatre during an early morning screening of the new Batman movie, 'The Dark Knight Rises' on July 21, 2012 in Aurora, outside of Denver, Colorado. According to reports, 12 people have been killed and over 59 injured. Police have the suspect, twenty-four year old James Holmes of North Aurora, in custody and are now dealing with various devices and trip wires in the apartment. (Photo by Chris Schneider/Getty Images)
Law enforcement officials carry buckets from the apartment of James Holmes, the suspect in the Century 16 movie theatre shooting, on July 21, 2012 in Aurora, Colorado. According to reports, 12 people have been killed and over 59 injured including 9 in critical condition. Police have the suspect, twenty-four year old James Holmes of North Aurora, in custody. (Photo by Chris Schneider/Getty Images)
Police break the window of the apartment of of James Holmes, the suspect of a shooting in a movie theater July 20, 2012 in Aurora, outside of Denver, Colorado. According to reports, 12 people have been killed and 59 wounded when James allegedly opened fire inside the a movie theater showing the 'The Dark Knight Rises.' Police have James, 24, of Holmes of North Aurora, in custody. (Photo by Thomas Cooper/Getty Images)
Yellow markers sit next to evidence, including a gas mask, as police investigate the scene outside the Century 16 movie theater east of the Aurora Mall in Aurora, Colo. on Friday, July 20, 2012. A gunman in a gas mask barged into a crowded Denver-area theater during a midnight showing of the Batman movie on Friday, hurled a gas canister and then opened fire in one of the deadliest mass shootings in recent U.S. history. (AP Photo/David Zalubowski)
Lt. H.D. Gidden speaks briefly to the media outside Gateway High School where witnesses were brought for questioning after a gunman opened fire at the midnight premiere of the Dark Knight Rises Batman movie Friday, July 20, 2012 in Aurora, Colo. (AP Photo/Barry Gutierrez)
Melissa Clark, left, and Nathan Mendonca, both 18 and from Aurora, Colo., look on during a vigil across from the Century 16 theatre east of the Aurora Mall in Aurora, Colo., on Friday, July 20, 2012. Authorities report that 12 died and more than three dozen people were shot during an assault at the theatre during a midnight premiere of "The Dark Knight." (AP Photo/David Zalubowski)
Jacob Stevens, 18, hugs his mother Tammi Stevens after being interview by police outside Gateway High School where witness were brought for questioning after a shooting at a movie theater, Friday, July 20, 2012 in Denver. A gunman wearing a gas mask set off an unknown gas and fired into a crowded movie theater at a midnight opening of the Batman movie "The Dark Knight Rises," killing at least 12 people and injuring at least 50 others, authorities said. (AP Photo/Barry Gutierrez)
AURORA, CO - JULY 20: The Century 16 movie theatre is seen where a gunmen attacked movie goers during an early morning screening of the new Batman movie, 'The Dark Knight Rises' July 20, 2012 in Aurora, Colorado. According to reports, 12 people have been killed and over 59 injured. Police have the suspect, twenty-four year old James Holmes of North Aurora, in custody. (Photo by Thomas Cooper/Getty Images)
Candles cover the sidewalk at a memorial across from the theater, Monday, July 30, 2012 in Aurora, Colo. Twelve people were killed and more than 50 wounded in a shooting attack early Friday at the packed theater during a showing of the Batman movie, "The Dark Knight Rises." Police have identified the suspected shooter as James Holmes, 24. (AP Photo/Alex Brandon)
Rita Paulina, in wheelchair, who was injured in the attack, departs the Arapahoe County Courthouse after an arraignment hearing for accused theater shooter James Holmes, Monday, July 30, 2012 in Centennial, Colo. Colorado prosecutors filed formal charges Monday against Holmes, the former neuroscience student accused of killing 12 people and wounding 58 others at an Aurora movie theater. (AP Photo/Alex Brandon)
A man walks on a hill near crosses set up at the memorial to victims of the Aurora, Colo., movie theater shooting, early Friday, July 27, 2012. It was a week ago Friday that a gunman opened fire during a late-night showing of "The Dark Knight Rises" Batman movie, killing 12 and injuring dozens of others. Police have identified the suspected shooter as James Holmes, 24. (AP Photo/Ted S. Warren)
Pallbearers and funeral workers carry the casket bearing the body of Aurora, Colo., movie theater shooting victim AJ Boik to a hearse following Boik's funeral, Friday, July 27, 2012, in Aurora, Colo. Boik was a recent high-school graduate. Boik, 18, was one of twelve people killed in a shooting attack, that also wounded dozens, last Friday at a packed movie theater during a showing of the Batman movie, "The Dark Knight Rises." Police have identified the suspected shooter as James Holmes, 24(AP Photo/Ted S. Warren)
A row of different AR-15 style rifles are displayed for sale at the Firing-Line indoor range and gun shop, Thursday, July 26, 2012 in Aurora, Colo. The Friday, July 20, 2012 massacre inside a crowded Colorado movie theater has prompted a sudden increase in gun sales and firearms training. Police said suspect James Holmes donned body armor and was armed with an AR-15 rifle, a shotgun and handguns during the attack. (AP Photo/Alex Brandon)
A Batman logo is shown at the memorial to victims of the Aurora, Colo., movie theater shooting, Friday, July 27, 2012. It was a week ago Friday that a gunman opened fire during a late-night showing of "The Dark Knight Rises" Batman movie, killing 12 and injuring dozens of others. Police have identified the suspected shooter as James Holmes, 24. (AP Photo/Ted S. Warren)
Members of the prosecution team arrive to view inside the apartment where accused killer James Homes lived, Tuesday, July 24, 2012 in Aurora, Colo. Twelve people were killed and over 50 wounded in a shooting attack early Friday at the packed theater during a showing of the Batman movie, "The Dark Knight Rises." Police have identified the suspected shooter as James Holmes, 24. (AP Photo/Alex Brandon)
Aurora Police Chief Dan Oates, center, talks to guests at the funeral for Aurora, Colo., movie theater shooting victim AJ Boik, Friday, July 27, 2012, in Aurora, Colo. Boik, 18, was one of twelve people killed in a shooting attack, that also wounded dozens, last Friday at a packed movie theater during a showing of the Batman movie, "The Dark Knight Rises." Police have identified the suspected shooter as James Holmes, 24(AP Photo/Ted S. Warren)
In this Monday, July 23, 2012 file photo, James Holmes, accused of killing 12 people in Friday's shooting rampage in an Aurora, Colo., movie theater, appears in Arapahoe County District Court with defense attorney Tamara Brady in Centennial, Colo. A court hearing Thursday, Aug. 30, 2012 will examine Holmes' relationship with a University of Colorado psychiatrist to whom he mailed a package containing a notebook that reportedly contains violent descriptions of an attack. His attorneys say Holmes is mentally ill and that he sought help from psychiatrist Lynne Fenton at the school, where he was a Ph.D. student, until shortly before the July 20 shooting. Prosecutors allege Holmes may have been angry at the failure of a once promising academic career. (AP Photo/Denver Post, RJ Sangosti, Pool, File)
A Batman doll lies in a memorial near the the Century 16 movie theater Sunday, July 22, 2012 in Aurora, Colo. Twelve people were killed and dozens were injured in a shooting attack early Friday at the packed theater during a showing of the Batman movie, "The Dark Knight Rises." Police have identified the suspected shooter as James Holmes, 24. (AP Photo/Alex Brandon)
FBI agents photograph the bedroom in the apartment of alleged gunman James Holmes with a poster titled "Soldiers of Misfortune" Saturday, July 21, 2012 in Aurora, Colo. Authorities reported that 12 died and more than three dozen people were shot during an assault at a movie theatre midnight premiere of "The Dark Knight Rises." (AP Photo/Alex Brandon)
Law enforcement officers prepare to disarm the booby-trapped apartment of suspect James Holmes after he went on a shooting rampage at nearby Century 16 movie theatre during an early morning screening of the new Batman movie, 'The Dark Knight Rises' on July 21, 2012 in Aurora, outside of Denver, Colorado. According to reports, 12 people have been killed and over 59 injured. Police have the suspect, twenty-four year old James Holmes of North Aurora, in custody and are now dealing with various devices and trip wires in the apartment. (Photo by Chris Schneider/Getty Images)
In this Monday, Dec. 8, 2014, file photo, Arlene Holmes, center, is consoled as she leaves the courtroom after a pretrial readiness hearing in the murder trial of her son, James Holmes, in Centennial, Colo. Robert and Arlene Holmes are asking that their son not receive the death penalty. Jury selection is scheduled to begin in January 2015, for the 2012 attack in Aurora that killed 12 people and injured 70. (AP Photo/David Zalubowski, File)
Arlene (L) and Robert Holmes, the parents of Aurora theater shooting suspect James Holmes, arrive at the court house after a midday recess during a hearing in the Arapahoe County Justice Center on April 1, 2013 in Centennial, Colorado. It was announced that District Attorney George Brauchler will seek the death penalty for suspect James Holmes who is charged with 166 counts of murder, attempted murder and other crimes in the Aurora theater shooting on July 20, 2012. (Photo by Doug Pensinger/Getty Images)
In this July 23, 2012 file photo, James E. Holmes appears in Arapahoe County District Court in Centennial, Colo. Nearly six months after a bloody rampage in a Colorado movie theater left 12 people dead, prosecutors will go to court Monday Jan. 7, 2013 to outline their case against the suspect, James Holmes. (AP Photo/Denver Post, RJ Sangosti, Pool, File)
(R), the parents of Aurora theater shooting suspect James Holmes, arrive at the courtroom for a hearing in the Arapahoe County Justice Center on April 1, 2013 in Centennial, Colorado. Prosecutors have said they will seek the death penalty for suspect James Holmes, who is charged with 166 counts of murder, attempted murder and other crimes in the Aurora theater shooting on July 20, 2012. (Photo by Doug Pensinger/Getty Images)
CENTENNIAL, CO - SEPTEMBER 20: In this photo provided by the Arapahoe County Sheriff's Office, James Holmes poses for a booking photo September 20, 2012 in Centennial, Colorado. Holmes is charged with 24 counts of murder and 116 counts of attempted murder in the July 20, shooting rampage at an opening night screening of 'The Dark Knight Rises' in Aurora, Colorado. (Photo by Arapahoe County Sheriff's Office via Getty Images)
This June 4, 2013 file photo shows Aurora theater shooting suspect James Holmes in court in Centennial, Colo. Holmes returns to court Monday Jan. 27, 2014, for a closed hearing on whether he should get a second psychiatric evaluation. Holmes is charged with the July 2012 Aurora shootings that killed 12 people and injured 70. (AP Photo/The Denver Post, Andy Cross, Pool, File)
Lonnie and Sandy Phillips listen as their lawyer speaks during a news conference on Tuesday, Sept. 16, 2014. The Phillips, parents of Jessica Ghawi, who was killed in the July 20, 2012 Colorado theater shootings, filed a lawsuit Tuesday accusing four online retailers of improperly selling ammunition, tear gas, a high-capacity magazine and body armor used in the attack. The lawsuit alleges it was illegal and negligent to sell the gear to James Holmes, who is accused of killing 12 people and injuring 70 in the July 20, 2012, attack. Holmes pleaded not guilty by reason of insanity to multiple counts of murder and attempted murder. (AP Photo/Brennan Linsley)
Lonnie and Sandy Phillips speak during a news conference on Tuesday, Sept. 16, 2014. The Phillips, parents of Jessica Ghawi, who was killed in the July 20, 2012 Colorado theater shootings, filed a lawsuit Tuesday accusing four online retailers of improperly selling ammunition, tear gas, a high-capacity magazine and body armor used in the attack. The lawsuit alleges it was illegal and negligent to sell the gear to James Holmes, who is accused of killing 12 people and injuring 70 in the July 20, 2012, attack. Holmes pleaded not guilty by reason of insanity to multiple counts of murder and attempted murder. (AP Photo/Brennan Linsley)
Judge Carlos A. Samour Jr. speaks during a hearing for Aurora theater shooting suspect James Holmes in Centennial, Colo., on Tuesday, June 4, 2013. Samour accepted a plea of not guilty by reason of insanity from Holmes. He also ruled that prosecutors can have access to a notebook Holmes sent to a psychiatrist before last summer's rampage. (AP Photo/The Denver Post, Andy Cross, Pool)
Defense Attorney Daniel King, right, and Aurora theater shooting suspect James Holmes review advisement documents in court in Centennial, Colo., on Tuesday, June 4, 2013. Holmes was allowed to change his plea to not guilty by reason of insanity. (AP Photo/The Denver Post, Andy Cross, Pool)
Defense Attorney Daniel King, right, and Aurora theater shooting suspect James Holmes attend court in Centennial, Colo., on Tuesday, June 4, 2013. Holmes was allowed to change his plea to not guilty by reason of insanity. (AP Photo/The Denver Post, Andy Cross, Pool)
In this March 12, 2013 file photo, James Holmes, left, and defense attorney Tamara Brady appear in district court in Centennial, Colo. for his arraignment. Holmes, the suspect in the Colorado theater massacre, could enter his long-expected insanity plea at a hearing Tuesday June 4, 2013, though the case could also veer off on another tangent as his lawyers seek the strongest possible defense. (AP Photo/The Denver Post, RJ Sangosti, Pool, File)
Family members and victims are escorted to the courtroom for a hearing where Aurora theater shooting suspect James Holmes asked a judge to enter a plea of not guilty by reason of insanity, Monday, May 13, 2013, in Centennial, Colo. (AP Photo/Ed Andrieski)
Defense attorney Tamara Brady talks to defendant James Holmes during his arraignment in Centennial, Colo., on Tuesday, March 12, 2013. Judge William Blair Sylvester entered a not guilty plea on behalf of James Holmes on Tuesday after the former graduate student's defense team said he was not ready to enter one. (AP Photo/Denver Post, RJ Sangosti, Pool)
In this Tuesday, March 12, 2013 file photo, Judge William Blair Sylvester speaks during James Holmes' arraignment, where he entered a guilty plea for Holmes, in district court in Centennial, Colo., after the former graduate student's defense team said he was not ready to enter one. On Monday, April 1, 2013, Sylvester named a new judge, Carlos A. Samour Jr., to take over Holmes' case. As chief judge for the district, Sylvester is responsible for the overall running of the court and said he couldn’t do that and also oversee a complicated death penalty case. (AP Photo/Denver Post, RJ Sangosti, Pool, File)
This courtroom sketch shows James Holmes being escorted by a deputy as he arrives at preliminary hearing in district court in Centennial, Colo., on Monday, Jan. 7, 2013. Investigators say Holmes opened fire during the midnight showing of the latest Batman movie on July 20, killing 12 people and wounding dozens. (AP Photo/Bill Robles, Pool) TV OUT
Arlene Holmes, mother of Aurora theater shooting suspect James Holmes, walks back into court at the Arapahoe County Justice Center for a hearing in the 2012 Colorado movie theatre shooting case, Tuesday, July 22, 2014 in Centennial, Colo. The court will look at setting a new trial date in the case against James Holmes. (AP Photo/The Denver Post, RJ Sangosti, Pool)
James Holmes parents Robert and Arlene Holmes arrive at district court for the arraignment of their son Aurora theater shooting suspect James Holmes in Centennial, Colo., on Tuesday, March 12, 2013. The judge has entered a not guilty on behalf of James Holmes after his lawyer said he's not ready to enter a plea. Holmes is charged with killing 12 people and wounding more than 50 in a crowded Colorado movie theater last year. (AP Photo/Ed Andrieski)
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Just one has won a mental-health case in the last two decades, Duwe said: Michael Hayes, who shot nine people, killing four, in North Carolina in 1988. Based on that, Holmes "faces some pretty long odds," he said.

Brauchler began laying out how the once-promising doctoral candidate in neuroscience plotted and planned for months, amassing guns, ammunition, tear gas grenades and enough chemicals to turn his dingy apartment into a potentially lethal booby trap that could have caused even more carnage.

Holmes was arrested almost immediately, while stripping off his body armor in the parking lot outside the Century 16 movie theater where he replaced Hollywood violence with real human carnage. His victims included two active-duty servicemen, a single mom, a man celebrating his 27th birthday, and an aspiring broadcaster who had survived a mall shooting in Toronto. Several died shielding friends or loved ones.

At 6 years old, the youngest to die was Veronica Moser-Sullivan. Her mother, Ashley Moser, was left paralyzed and lost her unborn child.

Holmes' trial could take at least four months or more and is sure to be emotionally wrenching. The 12 jurors and 12 alternates - chosen from a pool of 9,000 because it was so difficult to find people who weren't personally affected - won't know if they'll join the deliberations until after the trial.

Some survivors want Holmes executed, even if that means reliving horrific details.

"It still doesn't bring him back, but we want justice," said W. David Hoover, who wants to avenge the death of his 18-year-old nephew, A.J. Boik. "Real justice is going to happen when this animal leaves this Earth."

Fire Chief Larry Trujillo, whose daughter, Taylor, survived the shooting when a friend threw her to the floor, said while entering the courthouse that his faith enables him to forgive, but that this may be easier for him to say: His daughter survived.

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