Defense begins case in Colorado theater shooting trial

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Dr. Jonathan Woodcock Testifies Theater Gunman Was 'Severely Mentally Ill'
CENTENNIAL, Colo. (AP) -- Attorneys for Colorado theater shooter James Holmes began presenting their case Thursday by calling a psychiatrist who said he had no doubt Holmes was psychotic in the aftermath of killing 12 people at a packed movie premiere.

Dr. Jonathan Woodcock interviewed Holmes in jail for two hours on July 24, 2012, four days after he opened fire on the theater. The doctor said he found the gunman suffering from severe mental illness that made him "tremendously emotionally flat."

Halfway through the exam, Holmes looked annoyed and said he was bored, Woodcock testified.

"I found that absolutely extraordinary that anybody in such a crime could feel bored," Woodcock said. "That was really an extraordinary manifestation of his mental illness."

The jail visit with Holmes was not intended for Woodcock to form an opinion on Holmes' sanity but rather to see if Holmes was competent to stand trial.

Woodcock was among the first witnesses called by the defense in an effort to show Holmes was legally insane at the time of the shooting, which also wounded 70 people.

Defense attorneys planned to offer a less emotional and more clinical assessment of Holmes after two months of often-gruesome testimony from prosecution witnesses, including many visibly wounded victims.

Without the scores of victims on their side, Holmes' lawyers plan to present evidence in less than a quarter of the time taken by prosecutors. Their goal is not only to keep Holmes out of prison but also to keep him alive.

On the first day of the defense case, Holmes appeared clean-shaven in the courtroom, a change from the bushy beard he wore during the prosecution's case.

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Defense begins case in Colorado theater shooting trial
James Holmes appears in court for the sentencing phase in his trial, Monday, Aug. 24, 2015, at Arapahoe County District Court in Centennial, Colo. Victims and their families were given the opportunity to speak about the shooting and its effects on their lives. Holmes was convicted Aug. 7 of murdering 12 people when he opened fire on a crowded movie theater in 2012. (RJ Sangosti/The Denver Post via AP, Pool)
James Holmes, right, with defense attorney Katherine Spengler, appears in court for the sentencing phase in his trial, Monday, Aug. 24, 2015, at Arapahoe County District Court in Centennial, Colo. Victims and their families were given the opportunity to speak about the shooting and its effects on their lives. Holmes was convicted Aug. 7 of murdering 12 people when he opened fire on a crowded movie theater in 2012. (RJ Sangosti/The Denver Post via AP, Pool)
In an image made from video, Colorado theater shooter James Holmes, far left, sits at the defense table during a statement reading by Kathleen Pourciau, far right, the mother of surviving theater shooting victim Bonnie Kate Pourciau-Zoghbi, during the final sentencing phase of the Holmes trial in Centennial, Colo., Monday, Aug. 24, 2015. Holmes was convicted Aug. 7 of murdering 12 people when he opened fire on a crowded movie theater in 2012. (Colorado Judicial Department via AP, Pool)
Judge Carlos A. Samour Jr. sits on the bench during the sentencing phase in the trial of James Holmes, at Arapahoe County District Court in Centennial, Colo., Monday, Aug. 24, 2015. Victims and their families were given the opportunity to speak about the shooting and its effects on their lives. Holmes was convicted Aug. 7 of murdering 12 people when he opened fire on a crowded movie theater in 2012. (RJ Sangosti/The Denver Post via AP, Pool)
Lasamoa Cross, left, wipes tears from her face as she leaves the Arapahoe County Courthouse with Theresa Hoover, the mother of her boyfriend, Alexander J. Boik, who was killed in the theatre massacre, Friday, Aug. 7, 2015, in Centennial, Colo. James Holmes will be sentenced to life in prison without parole after a jury failed to agree on whether he should get the death penalty. (AP Photo/David Zalubowski)
Terry Sullivan, right, whose son Alex was killed on his birthday in the 2012 Aurora movie theatre attack, embraces Lonnie Phillips, whose daughter Jessica Ghawi was also killed, after a jury failed to agree on whether theater shooter James Holmes should get the death penalty Friday, Aug. 7, 2015, in Centennial, Colo. Holmes will be sentenced to life in prison without parole. (AP Photo/Brennan Linsley)
Tom Sullivan, right, who lost his son in the movie theater shooting in Aurora, Colo., in July 2012, heads into the Arapahoe County Courthouse to hear the verdict reached in the penalty phase of the trial of convicted shooter James Holmes Friday, Aug. 7, 2015, in Centennial, Colo. Jurors have reached a decision on whether to sentence Holmes to life in prison or the death penalty. (AP Photo/David Zalubowski)
Josh Nowlan, who was shot during the massacre at a movie theater in Aurora, Colo., in July 2012, is hugged by an unidentified woman as they head into the Arapahoe County Courthouse to hear the verdict reached in the penalty phase of the trial of convicted shooter James Holmes Friday, Aug. 7, 2015, in Centennial, Colo. Jurors have reached a decision on whether to sentence Holmes to life in prison or the death penalty. (AP Photo/David Zalubowski)
Ian Sullivan, who lost his 6-year-old daughter in the massacre at a theater in Aurora, Colo., heads into the Arapahoe County Courthouse to hear the verdict reached in the penalty phase of the trial of convicted shooter James Holmes Friday, Aug. 7, 2015, in Centennial, Colo. Jurors have reached a decision on whether to sentence Holmes to life in prison or the death penalty. (AP Photo/David Zalubowski)
Terry Sullivan, second from left, whose son Alex was killed on his birthday in the 2012 Aurora movie theatre attack, embraces Bryan Beard, Alex's best friend, as Alex's father Tom looks on at right, after a jury failed to agree on whether theater shooter James Holmes should get the death penalty Friday, Aug. 7, 2015, in Centennial, Colo. Holmes will be sentenced to life in prison without parole. (AP Photo/Brennan Linsley)
In this image taken from video, accused Colorado theater shooter James Holmes, on the far left, listens to testimony during his trial, in Centennial, Colo., Thursday, June 25, 2015. Holmes arrived at court minus his normal full beard. (Colorado Judicial Department via AP, Pool)
Defendant James Holmes appears in a video presented to a darkened courtroom in Centennial, Colo., Thursday, June 4, 2015. Holmes, also seated at defense table below screen, spoke in the video to a psychiatrist who evaluated him for the trial on charges that he killed 12 people and wounded 70 others during the midnight premiere of a Batman film. (Colorado Judicial Department via AP, Pool)
In this image taken from video, Colorado movie theater shooter James Holmes, second from left, stands along with defense and prosecution teams, as the jury exits the courtroom for a break in the Holmes trial, in Centennial, Colo., Friday, June 19, 2015. The prosecution, led by District Attorney George Brauchler, second from left, rested its case Friday. (Colorado Judicial Department via AP, Pool)
FILE - This Jan. 15, 2015, file photo shows a view of the jury box, right, inside Courtroom 201, where jury selection in the trial of Aurora movie theater shootings defendant James Holmes was set to begin at the Arapahoe County District Court in Centennial, Colo. Three jurors in the Colorado theater shooting trial were dismissed Tuesday, June 9, 2015, amid concern they had been exposed to media coverage of the case and were discussing it among themselves. (AP Photo/Brennan Linsley, Pool, File)
File - In this April 27, 2015, file sketch by courtroom artist Jeff Kandyba, prosecutor George Brauchler makes a point during the opening day of the trial for Aurora, Colo., theatre shooting suspect James Holmes, in Centennial, Colo. Holmes is charged with killing 12 people and wounding 70 more in a July 2012 attack on a suburban Denver movie theater. His attorneys argue he suffers from schizophrenia and was in the grips of a psychotic episode when he opened fire on the packed auditorium during a midnight premier of a Batman movie. Experts say prosecutors are using a an approach to craft a memorable narrative that will hold jurors’ attention as the trial continues over more than four months, with scores of witnesses taking the stand.(AP Photo/Jeff Kandyba, file) KCNC-TV, KMGH-TV, KDVR-TV AND KUSA-TV OUT.
In this Monday, April 27, 2015 sketch by courtroom artist Jeff Kandyba, Aurora theater shooting defendant James Holmes, center left, and defense attorney Daniel King sit in court at the Arapahoe County Justice Center on the first day of Holmes' trial, in Centennial, Colo. Holmes acknowledges killing 12 people and wounding 70 more inside a packed movie theater in July 2012, but has pleaded not guilty by reason of insanity. (AP Photo/Jeff Kandyba)
In this Monday, April 27, 2015, sketch by courtroom artist Jeff Kandyba, Caleb Medley, who was shot in the head during the massacre at the theatre in Aurora, Colo., is shown during the opening day of the trial for Aurora, Colo., theatre shooting suspect James Holmes in Centennial, Colo. The trial will determine if Holmes will be executed, spend his life in prison or be committed to an institution as criminally insane. (AP Photo/David Zalubowski)
In this Monday, April 27, 2015, sketch by courtroom artist Jeff Kandyba, Judge Carlos A. Samour, Jr., makes a point during the opening day of the trial for Aurora, Colo., theatre shooting suspect James Holmes Monday, April 27, 2015, in Centennial, Colo. The trial will determine if Holmes will be executed, spend his life in prison or be committed to an institution as criminally insane. (AP Photo/Jeff Kandyba)
In this Monday, April 27, 2015 sketch by courtroom artist Jeff Kandyba, public defender Daniel King makes a point during the opening day of the trial for Aurora, Colo., theatre shooting suspect James Holmes Monday, April 27, 2015, in Centennial, Colo. The trial will determine if Holmes will be executed, spend his life in prison or be committed to an institution as criminally insane. (AP Photo/Jeff Kandyba)
In this Monday, April 27, 2015 sketch by courtroom artist Jeff Kandyba, Aurora theater shooting defendant James Holmes is depicted as he sits in court at the Arapahoe County Justice Center on the first day of the Holmes trial, in Centennial, Colo. As the trial begins, the question isn't whether Holmes killed 12 people and wounded 70, but whether he was sane at the time of the killings. (AP Photo/Jeff Kandyba)
Aurora, Colo. Fire Department Lt. Bernd Hoefler, left, talks to a Arapahoe County Sheriff's Deputy after testifying during the third day in the trial of James Holmes, Wednesday, April 29, 2015, in Centennial, Colo. Holmes is charged with multiple counts of murder and attempted murder for a 2012 attack that killed 12 people and injured 70 in a movie theater. (AP Photo/David Zalubowski)
File - In this April 27, 2015 file photo, Joshua Nowlan, right, one of the victims in the massacre at the Aurora, Colo., theatre, is escorted from court by a law enforcement officer on the opening day of the trial for theatre shooting suspect James Holmes, in Centennial, Colo. The trial will determine if Holmes will be executed, spend his life in prison or be committed to an institution as criminally insane. (AP Photo/David Zalubowski, file)
FILE - In this Jan. 7, 2013 file photo, Aurora Police Officer Justin Grizzle leaves court after testifying at a preliminary hearing for Aurora theater shooter James Holmes at the courthouse in Centennial, Colo. In testimony last week, Grizzle told of carrying victims Caleb Medley in the back of his patrol car and begging him not to die as he sped to a hospital. (AP Photo/Ed Andrieski, File)
Tom Sullivan, front, who lost his 27-year-old son Alex in the massacre at a movie theater in Aurora, Colo., leaves the courthouse after the second day in the death penalty trial of theater shooter James Holmes Tuesday, April 28, 2015, in Centennial, Colo. Witnesses were called to the stand to recall the night of the incident, in which 12 people died and 70 others were injured. (AP Photo/David Zalubowski)
Marcus Weaver, left, a victim of the 2012 shooting at an Aurora, Colo., movie theater, is embraced after Weaver testified during the third day in the trial of James Holmes, Wednesday, April 29, 2015, in Centennial, Colo. Holmes is charged with multiple counts of murder and attempted murder in an attack that killed 12 people and injured 70. (AP Photo/David Zalubowski)
Law enforcement officers keep watch from the roof of the Arapahoe County Justice Center on the second day of the trial of Aurora movie theater massacre defendant James Holmes, in Centennial, Colo., Tuesday, April 28, 2015. The trial will determine if Holmes will be executed, spend his life in prison or be committed to an institution. (AP Photo/Brennan Linsley)
Colorado theater shooter James Holmes, left rear in light-colored shirt, watches during testimony by witness Derick Spruel, upper right, on the second day of his trial in Centennial, Colo., Monday, April 27, 2015. Standing at left is prosecutor Lisa Teesch-Maguire. (Colorado Judicial Department via AP, Pool)
Araphaoe County, colo., Sheriffs Department deputies, at back, escort attendees out of the courthouse at the conclusion of the opening day of the trial for Aurora, Colo., theatre shooting suspect James Holmes Monday, April 27, 2015, in Centennial, Colo. The trial will determine if Holmes will be executed, spend his life in prison or be committed to an institution as criminally insane. (AP Photo/David Zalubowski)
Surrounded by television photographers and reporters, Marcus Weaver, front, a victim of the shooting massacre at an Aurora, Colo., theatre, talks at the conclusion of the opening day of the trial for theatre shooting suspect James Holmes Monday, April 27, 2015, in Centennial, Colo. The trial will determine if Holmes will be executed, spend his life in prison or be committed to an institution as criminally insane. (AP Photo/David Zalubowski)
Television journalists are directed by an official to return to a nearby area reserved for media, outside the Arapahoe County Justice Center, on the first day of the trial of James Holmes, in Centennial, Colo., Monday, April 27, 2015. Holmes acknowledges killing 12 people and wounding 70 more inside a packed movie theater on July 20, 2012, but has pleaded not guilty by reason of insanity. (AP Photo/Brennan Linsley)
People enter the Arapahoe County Justice Center on the first day of the trial of defendant James Holmes, in Centennial, Colo., Monday, April 27, 2015. Holmes acknowledges killing 12 people and wounding 70 more inside a packed movie theater on July 20, 2012, but has pleaded not guilty by reason of insanity. (AP Photo/Brennan Linsley)
Television satellite trucks and production tents are positioned in the parking lot of the Arapahoe County Justice Center, on the first day of the trial of James Holmes, in Centennial, Colo., Monday, April 27, 2015. Holmes acknowledges killing 12 people and wounding 70 more inside a packed movie theater on July 20, 2012, but has pleaded not guilty by reason of insanity. (AP Photo/Brennan Linsley)
Lonnie and Sandy Phillips, whose daughter Jessica Ghawi was killed in the 2012 Aurora, Colo., movie theatre shooting, prepare to enter the Arapahoe County Justice Center, on the first day of the trial of defendant James Holmes, in Centennial, Colo., Monday, April 27, 2015. Holmes acknowledges killing 12 people and wounding 70 more inside the packed theater, but has pleaded not guilty by reason of insanity. (AP Photo/Brennan Linsley)
CENTENNIAL, CO - APRIL 27: Family members of Aurora Theater shooting victim Veronica Moser walk into the Arapahoe County Justice Center as opening arguments for the trial of Aurora Theater Shooting defendant James Holmes opened at the courthouse April 27, 2015 in Centennial, Colorado. Holmes faces multiple murder charges stemming from a mass shooting in July 2012 theater shooting that killed 12 people and wounded dozens of others. (Photo by Marc Piscotty/Getty Images)
A law enforcement officer adjusts a barrier for media in front of the Arapahoe County District Court, on the first day of the trial of the Aurora movie theater shootings defendant James Holmes, in Centennial, Colo., Monday April 27, 2015. As the trial begins, the question isn't whether Holmes killed 12 people and wounded 70, but whether he was sane at the time of the killings. (AP Photo/Brennan Linsley)
CENTENNIAL, CO - APRIL 27: Members of the media film people walking into the Arapahoe County Justice Center as opening arguments for the trial of Aurora Theater Shooting defendant James Holmes opened at the courthouse April 27, 2015 in Centennial, Colorado. Holmes faces multiple murder charges stemming from a mass shooting in July 2012 theater shooting that killed 12 people and wounded dozens of others. (Photo by Marc Piscotty/Getty Images)
Judge Carlos A. Samour Jr., top right, presides over the opening of the trial of Colorado theater shooter James Holmes, far left, in Centennial, Colo., Monday, April 27, 2015. The trial will determine if he'll be executed, spend his life in prison, or be committed to an institution as criminally insane. (Colorado Judicial Department via AP, Pool)
Colorado theater shooter James Holmes, far left, sits at the defense table at the opening of his trial in Centennial, Colo., Monday, April 27, 2015. The trial will determine if he'll be executed, spend his life in prison, or be committed to an institution as criminally insane. (Colorado Judicial Department via AP, Pool)
CENTENNIAL, CO - APRIL 27: Producers at Denver Post TV listen and take notes from the courtroom live feed of proceedings as opening arguments for the trial of Aurora Theater Shooting defendant James Holmes opened at the Arapahoe County Justice Center April 27, 2015 in Centennial, Colorado. Holmes faces multiple murder charges stemming from a mass shooting in July 2012 theater shooting that killed 12 people and wounded dozens of others. Holmes is seated at the very far left of the television screen. (Photo by Marc Piscotty/Getty Images)
Surrounded by television photographers and reporters, Marcus Weaver, front, a victim of the shooting massacre at an Aurora, Colo., theatre, talks at the conclusion of the opening day of the trial for theatre shooting suspect James Holmes Monday, April 27, 2015, in Centennial, Colo. The trial will determine if Holmes will be executed, spend his life in prison or be committed to an institution as criminally insane. (AP Photo/David Zalubowski)
Marcus Weaver, center back, who was shot in the massacre at the theatre in Aurora, Colo., is flanked by an unidentified man while leaving the Arapahoe County, Colo., courthouse at the conclusion of the opening day of the trial for theatre shooting suspect James Holmes Monday, April 27, 2015, in Centennial, Colo. The trial will determine if Holmes will be executed, spend his life in prison or be committed to an institution as criminally insane. (AP Photo/David Zalubowski)
Marcus Weaver, front right, who was wounded in the Aurora, Colo., theatre shooting, emerges at the conclusion of the opening day of the trial for theatre shooting suspect James Holmes, Monday, April 27, 2015, in Centennial, Colo. The trial will determine if Holmes will be executed, spend his life in prison or be committed to an institution as criminally insane. (AP Photo/David Zalubowski)
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After the shooting, Holmes was clearly distressed by the worsening symptoms of his disorder, which brought anxiety and pushed him to drop out of his stressful neuroscience program, Woodcock said.

Holmes told the doctor he began experiencing problems as early as middle school. He started thinking of killing other people as a way to ease the discomfort of his own suicidal thoughts, Woodcock testified.

Woodcock's findings were in contrast to two other, court-appointed psychiatrists who examined Holmes in the months and years after the shooting and found him mentally ill but capable of knowing right from wrong at the time - Colorado's definition of legal sanity. Holmes' attorneys have argued that his mental decline was far greater than the state doctors knew, in part because those doctors analyzed him much later after the attack.

Woodcock sought to counter the prosecution's argument that Holmes knew what he planned to do was wrong and therefore could have stopped it. Woodcock testified that psychotic people can both know their impulses are wrong and be powerless not to act on them.

"There can be an awareness that they don't want to do this, but they're still compelled to do it," he argued.

Woodcock also testified that Holmes believed that if he told people about his plans to kill strangers, he would be required to carry out the action. He said Holmes has a "twisted orientation" and that there is no point in trying to understand why psychotic people would hide behavior they want others to stop them from carrying out.

"They're by essence crazy. They're illogical," Woodcock said.

If jurors agree, Holmes would be committed to a state mental hospital indefinitely.

The insanity defense is successful in only about 25 percent of felony trials in which it is raised nationally, and the odds are worse in a high-profile homicide.

In Colorado, prosecutors have the burden of proof in insanity cases. Most states and the federal system place that burden on defendants.

The defense case also is critical because jurors can use information they hear in the verdict phase if the trial advances to a sentencing phase. Studies show that jurors often enter a penalty phase with their minds made up about an appropriate sentence, even though they are instructed not to do so.

"The defense is going to say, `There's no question he was able to inflict a ton of carnage here, but do we give society's harshest sentence to someone who is severely mentally ill?'" said George H. Kendall, who has handled other high-profile death-penalty cases.

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