JAMES HOLMES IS MENTALLY ILL . FOR JAMES HOLMES JUSTICE IS NOT DEATH.
"For James Eagan Holmes, justice is death," District Attorney George Brauchler said in court.
James Holmes’ parents in court: James looked at them when he came in. After the announcement, Holmes’ father nodded his head and put his arm around his wife.
Legal definition of insanity:
Insanity. n. mental illness of such a severe nature that a person cannot distinguish fantasy from reality, cannot conduct her/his affairs due to psychosis, or is subject to uncontrollable impulsive behavior.
Mental illness of a person accused of crime becomes relevant with regard to five different stages of the the criminal justice process
(1) the accused’s present incompetency to stand trial for the alleged offense, (2) the accused’s insanity at the time of the offense, (3) the accused’s diminished capacity because mental illness negated the mental element or mens rea of the offense, (4) the blameworthiness of the accused at the sentencing phase because of mental illness, and (5) the accused’s present competence to be executed.
Here are definitions of some tests of insanity that have been utilized over the years:
- M’Naghten Rule (Right Wrong Test 1843): The rule (1) is “It must be proven that at the time of committing the act, the party accused was laboring under such a defect of reason from disease of the mind as not to know the nature and quality of the act that he was doing, or if he did know it, that he did not know he was doing what was wrong.” When we say that the accused did not know the nature and quality of his or her act, we mean, for example that she did not comprehend that she was, for example, choking her child to death, but rather thought that she was kneading dough. Such instances of lack of knowledge are rare. Accordingly, most insanity cases focus on the second prong of the test, i.e., whether disease of the mind rendered the accused unable to know that her conduct was wrong.
- Irresistible Impulse Test (1844): Under the irresistible impulse test (1), the inquiry is whether the accused can establish that a mental defect or disease kept him from controlling his conduct (volitional), even though he knew what he was doing and knew what it was wrong. This test augments or supplements the M’Naghten Rule. In such a jurisdiction, one need only satisfy one of the rules.
- Durham Rule (1954): Under Durham v. United States, 214 F2d 862 (D.C. Cir 1954) an accused is not criminally responsible if the “unlawful act was the product of mental disease or defect.” “Product” is defined as ” if the accused would not have committed the act but for the disease or defect.” Mental disease or defect” was defined as ” any abnormal condition of the mind which substantially affects mental or emotional processes and impairs behavior controls.” See McDonald v. United States, 312 F.2d 847 (D.C. Cir. 1962).
- A.L.I. Model Penal Code Rule of Mental Responsibility (1963): Under the A.L.I. test of mental responsibility the accused is found not to be criminally responsible if, as a result of mental disease or defect, he lacks substantial capacity either: (a) to appreciate the wrongfulness of his conduct (cognitive portion); or (b) to conform his conduct to the requirements of law (volitional portion). While “mental disease or defect” is not defined Section 4.01 of the Model Penal Code states that it does not include an abnormality “manifested only by repeated criminal or otherwise anti-social conduct”; this has the effect of excluding sociopaths and psychopaths, i.e., the Antisocial Personality Disorder that applies to 75% of prison inmates and is characterized by a pattern of irresponsibility, rule breaking, and exploitation for sex, money and other primitive needs. In adolescence, this may manifest itself in Conduct Disorder characterized by truancy, fighting, destruction of property, firesetting, and cruelty to animals. Under the A.L.I. test, one sees what could be described as a refined combination of the M’Naghten and irresistible impulse rules.
Federal Insanity Rule: The statutory federal insanity defense enacted by Congress in 1984 is allowed only when the defendant, as a result of severe mental disease or defect was unable to appreciate the nature and quality of he wrongfulness of his acts. This new statutory federal rule replaced the ALI-MPC rule that had been judicially approved by every circuit.
Best Chance for an Insanity Defense to Prevail:
The defense’s best chance for an insanity defense comes when the crime is in direct response to psychotic symptoms (1), (2), (3), (4), (5), (6 - great for definitions), (7) (8 - Evolution of the Insanity Plea), (9 - Frontline’s “A Crime of Insanity”). For example, most experts will agree that psychosis (with symptoms such as delusions, hallucinations and thought disorders), and other serious brain dysfunctions will qualify as a “mental disease or defect” for purposes of insanity. A number of specific psychotic illnesses seem to qualify with most experts, e.g., schizophrenia (the most severe form of mental illness, characterized by delusions, hallucinations and thought disorders), schizophreniform disorder (like schizophrenia but of shorter duration), schizoaffective disorder (involving depression or mania or when both occur, the so-called “bipolar disorder”), brief psychotic disorder (This one might be thought of as “temporary insanity” in the sense that it is of relatively short duration, e.g., weeks, but involves the symptoms of schizophrenia.), delusional disorders (These folks may appear normal until the delusion appears; one example is erotomania where the afflicted person has a delusion without hallucinations, e.g., the “celebrity stalker” who believes the targeted celebrity is in love with them; another example is the paranoid delusion), etc. The experts tell us that psychotic depression can express itself when where life becomes so highly debilitating that the sufferer quits eating and bathing and stays in bed and ,perhaps, hears voices reminding him of his unworthiness as a human being. They tell us that those in the grip of mania may become grandiose and extreme risk-takers because they feel bullet-proof. Of course, the prosecution experts may be quick to remind jurors that some people with psychoses have periods of remission where their symptoms don’t manifest themselves.
The Expert’s Effort: How do the experts go about making their psychiatric or psychological assessment of the accused’s mental state at the time of the offense? The expert reviews the extant records of the case, e.g., the discovery, the crime scene reports, the offense reports, etc. Why? Because the presence or absence of mental illness and its relationship to the accused knowledge of the wrongness of the crime can be revealed by behavior of the accused before, during, and after the offense. The expert visits the crime scene. The expert interviews the complainant and witnesses. The expert inspects the physical evidence. The expert conducts an examination of the accused, typically about two days for a total of 6-10 hours face-to-face. The expert may conduct or order neuropsychological tests and/or biomedical tests.
The expert’s face-to-face mental status examination (MSE) of the accused should be comprehensive. This means that the expert should be thoroughly prepared, knowing as much about the case as possible before talking with the accused. The mental status exam should be videotaped from start to finish. The accused should be told why the exam is taking place, that the exam is not confidential, and that it is being videotaped. The expert should take a life history, e.g., a “getting to know all about you” set of questions that explore the accused’s background, schooling , family, etc. An IQ test should be given. [ Note: IQ is reflected in numbers, i.e. above 130: very superior; 120-129: superior; 110-119: high average; 90-109: average; 80-89: low average; 70-79: borderline; and 69 and below: mentally retarded.] The accused is then asked by the forensic examiner to give his account of the offense, e.g., “Take me through the whole story. Earl.”; the expert does not interrupt with questions during the accused’s narrative. After the accused has told his story, the expert will ask clarifying questions. Then the expert will confront the accused with inconsistencies in his story and note the reactions. Throughout the exam the expert is monitoring the accused’s orientation, level of consciousness, emotion (mood and affect), suicidal-homicidal axis, insight, judgment, memory, and intellect. Memory can be tested by simple tests, e.g, the examiner asking the accused to remember three words and then coming back 20 minutes later and asking him to recall the three words. The accused’s vocabulary will also aid the examiner in assessing his intellect. Experts generally agree that “reality testing” is the “meat and potatoes” of the mental status examination (MSE). Reality testing focuses on the content, form, and logic of the accused’s thoughts, as well as his perceptual accuracy, e.g., the presence or absence of delusions and/or hallucinations.
Analytic Steps to a Diagnosis: How does the expert arrive at a conclusion regarding the insanity issue? The expert organizes the facts from the life history of the accused together with the detailed facts of the offense, including what the accused did before, during, and after the event. Then the expert compares the accused’s statements with that of all the other witnesses and analyzes the results of all the tests that have been run on the accused. Then the expert reconstructs the accused’s thoughts and feelings at the time of the offense and compares those feelings with the legal test of insanity. The expert then arrives at a conclusion (expert opinion) as to whether the accused was insane at the time of the offense. The expert’s report is then written up and delivered to the attorney who employed the expert.