Co-worker recalls Colorado movie massacre gunman acting 'spaced out'
Lawyers for Colorado movie massacre gunman James Holmes sought on Monday to build their case he was legally insane, calling a former co-worker at a pill-coating factory who remembered him as quiet, antisocial and acting oddly.
Public defenders are seeking to save Holmes' life after the 27-year-old former neuroscience graduate student pleaded not guilty by reason of insanity to killing 12 people and wounding 70 in the July 2012 shooting rampage.
Prosecutors say he is a methodical mass killer who hid meticulous preparations for the attack on a Denver area multiplex. Holmes' lawyers say he suffers from schizophrenia, heard voices in his head commanding him to kill, and was not in control of his actions.
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Jose Sanchez worked with the defendant for three or four months beginning in the fall of 2010 at a pill- and capsule-coating factory in San Diego county, California.
Sanchez, a quality control technician, described Holmes as "not social at all," and said Holmes never had lunch with coworkers in the canteen, eating alone in his car in the parking lot instead.
Sanchez also recalled once finding the defendant acting strangely at his laboratory work station.
"As I opened the curtains I saw him staring at the wall ... he looked spaced out. He was taking notes, but he was kind of looking at the wall like somebody was talking to him," Sanchez said.
He said he asked Holmes if he was OK, but got no response.
"He kind of had like a smirk on his face, and he was kind of like laughing or smiling," Sanchez told the jury. "It was like I was never there, because I was literally three feet from him."
On cross-examination, prosecutor Rich Orman noted Sanchez never socialized with Holmes, and last saw him some 18 months before the massacre.
The courtroom earlier broke into rare laughter when, asked by a defense attorney to identify the defendant, Sanchez pointed to a juror.
Holmes has put on weight during his 34 months in jail. He also wears glasses and a beard now, presenting a sharp contrast to the slim figure with dyed-red hair and darting eyes who first appeared in court soon after the attack.
Last week, the prosecution clashed with the defense's first expert witness, a psychiatrist who found Holmes to be legally insane. Two court-appointed psychiatrists have concluded Holmes was sane.