Tuesday, July 31, 2012

Just Plain Crazy?!?

Hello fellow bloggers, readers and passers-by,

If you are a facebook friend, you will appreciate the time I've taken to investigate the initial aspect of this post. If you are not a facebook friend, my dear, you are truly missing out on one heck of a great social friend!

I do not want anyone to think I'm am putting a 'hero' title on this because I am not. I do not want anyone to think I am excited, pleased or otherwise entertained by the aspect of this case because I am not. I am, for lack of a better term, curious into the human psyche. I am curious about what makes a human behave the way they do. What makes them tick or fail to keep time? What drives a person to do what they do, albeit illegal, immoral, or unhealthy at times? I am a criminology major and I see the system fail time and time again -- so I hope to one day change it. But in the mean time, I will research cases, inspect the system as it is, throw a little bit of opinion in and prove some facts based on the classes I've taken and the peer reviewed articles I've read.

Kick back, lay back or throw back, either way, I hope you enjoy this post for the educational points and again, please do not think I am glorifying this case -- simply intrigued by humans.

James Eagan Holmes lived in apartment number 10 in a complex on Paris Street. He was a recent college graduate and was working on his doctorate in neuroscience, a program that focuses on the interdisciplinary scientific study of the molecular, structural, physiologic, cognitive, and behavioral aspects of the brain and nervous system. Includes instruction in molecular and cellular neuroscience, brain science, anatomy and physiology of the central nervous system, molecular and biochemical bases of information processing, behavioral neuroscience, biology of neuropsychiatric disorders, and applications to the clinical sciences and biomedical engineering.

According to news reports, Holmes had begun purchasing ammunition for weapons around the same time the masses were gearing up for a summer full of blockbuster releases such as The Avengers, The Amazing Spiderman and The Dark Knight Rises. It wasn't until May or June that he would actually purchase his weapons. An AR-15 assault rifle, a shotgun, and 2 Glock handguns. He would also purchase tactical gear and products used to make explosives. But again, according to news outlets, his neighbors regarded him as a quiet, college student who didn't create a fuss.

On or about July 20, 2012, Holmes would send a package to Dr. Lynne Fenton, a psychiatrist at the University of Colorado, Denver, however, the contents of the package is unknown, though speculation that the package contained a notebook detailing specific events such as killing. As of this blog post, defense attorneys for Holmes have requested the contents remain sealed to protect doctor-patient privilege.

On or about the same date, July 20, 2012, theaters across the country began their midnight premiere of The Dark Knight Rises, which portrays characters as Batman, Cat woman and other comic book heroes. On this same night, movie goers had no idea that crime would be a reality and they would be the victims.

James Eagan Holmes entered the Century 16 Theater and opened fire killing 12 and wounding 58 people. To read more about the events that occurred, click here. I plan on posting a memorial blog for those whose lives were tragically stolen in the near future. But for this post, I want to focus on the behavior.

Some say he was insane. Others say he was crazy. Others say he is faking and knew exactly what he was doing. All of these could be true statements, but lets look at the insanity defense.

Insane. Different from competent in that insanity, a judge or jury must evaluate the defendants state of mind at the time of the offense. To be incompetent to stand trial, a "...low level standard is used to determine if the defendant can stand trial. The defendant must understand the proceedings against him in that:
1.) He/she is being tried for a crime,
2.) He/she must understand the roles of the prosecutor, defense attorney, judge, jury, and
3.) assist his defense attorney in showing his innocence.

Many believe if a person is found incompetent to stand trial they are merely getting away with murder, literally. On the contrary, competency renders the case on hiatus until competency is restored, the the case/trial resumes.

Fact: Insanity defense is raised in less than 1% of felony cases and only successful in a fraction of those.The vast majority of successful insanity defenses are met through plea bargains.
Of the United States, only three states do not allow an insanity defense: Montana, Idaho and Utah. The remaining states fall into two typical categories of insanity pleas:
1.) M'Naughten Rule, or
2.) Model Penal Code Rule

Colorado uses a modified version of the M'Naughten Rule with the Irresistible Impulse Test. In addition, the burden of proof is on the State in which the state must prove sanity beyond a reasonable doubt. Irresistible Impulse Test is often used to absolve a defendant who can distinguish right from wrong but is nonetheless unable to stop himself from committing an act he knows to be wrong. Most often referred to as "The Police at the Elbow" test... Would the defendant have committed the crime even if there was a police officer standing at his elbow?

Class, let's look at some definitions!
A.) Beyond a Reasonable Doubt: facts proven must, by virtue of their probative force, establish guilt.
B.) Probative force: an item of evidence that tends to prove a fact that is at issue in the case. Various pieces of evidence have different amounts of force during trial. For example, DNA from a rape case which matches the defendants DNA carries a strong force. A witness who identified the rapist based on a fleeting glance carries a weaker force.
C.) Burden of Proof: Prosecution must prove beyond a reasonable doubt that the defendant is guilty of the alleged charges by producing credible evidence which proves the facts of the case.
D.) Direct Evidence: evidence based on personal knowledge or observation of the person testifying. No inference or presumption is needed.
E.) Inference: conclusions drawn from facts, but not established as with direct evidence.
F.) Burden of Persuasion: defense has the opportunity to persuade the jury that the prosecution is incorrect or has not been established towards the defendant's guilt.

Some cases in which the insanity plea was used and was successful.
1.) Richard Lawrence - 1835
2.) Daniel Sickles - 1859
3.) John Schrank - 1912
4.) Ezra Pound - 1946 - declared incompetent
5.) John Hinkley - 1982

A persons mental capacity should also be considered when speaking of the insanity defense.
Are they well educated? Thorough with the crime committed? Was the crime elaborate? Other questions arise when considering this defense. Was the suspect captured or did he turn himself in? Did he confess or deny the claims against him? Did he offer additional information which would prove he was sane at the time of the crime? Did he assist in offering additional evidence? Was there a motive to the crime? Other circumstantial evidence one should consider when weighing the case are the three most important: Threaten, flight, and destroy evidence -- Holmes did not do any of these three, but in fact, did the opposite. He did not threaten to commit the crime, he did not destroy evidence against him and he assisted the police by warning them about his apartment, disclosing the package mailed to Fenton and did not try to flee when the crime occurred.

All in all, as one officer stated in a report, this is not a 'whodunit' case. We are very much aware that Holmes is guilty of committing these acts. The question is, was he aware of what he was doing? Was he under some psychosis? Was he bribed, threatened? Did he know he could ask for help? Did he ask for help? Did he have a mental breakdown that forced him to do these horrendous acts? Did he know it was wrong, but under some obsession, fail to stop himself? All good questions, and unfortunately, I do not have the answers. But I can tell you some points of interest regarding the behavioral aspect.

Freud claimed humans have two basic needs or drives present at birth.
1.) eros or 'life instinct' which is the need for bonding, and
2.) thanatos or 'death instinct' which is the aggressive drive.

*Both operate at an unconscious level and create deep inner tensions*

Mead, however went against not only Freud but Piaget as well. He maintains that "... the self is the part of an individuals personality composed of self awareness and self image..." and that it, "...only develops with social experience."

Freud's psycho dynamic perspective aims that behavior is driven or motivated by powerful inner (eros and thanatos) forces. Human nature is not always ration and actions may be driven by motives that are not in conscious awareness. Human actions stem from inherited instincts, biological drives and conflicts between personal needs and societies demands.

Watson, however, shows the behavior prospective by looking at the stimulus, the response and the consequences. One could question Holmes on several different versions of this very prospective. The stimulus before the plotting of the crime, or the stimulus right before he committed the crime. The response from his plotting, or the response from committing the crime, and lastly, the consequence of his plotting the crime, or the consequence of committing the crime. Either way, we may never truly understand the behavior prospective of his actions.

Other questions that come to mind when I really look at this case:
If Fenton was treating Holmes, did she treat him for:
a. mood problems
b. daily functions
c. abnormal thoughts

The reason I ask these questions is quite simple. They would signal cycles of getting better, then digressing. But what would this matter you ask? I'll tell you. Mental disease is often over looked when it shouldn't be, and often over-diagnosed the remaining times. I want to reiterate that I am not defending the wrongful death and murder of 12 people, nor the attempted murder of 58 others... I'm simply looking at the case and mental disease or defect should not be tossed by the wayside.

Look at possible indicators of stressors that could prove a mental condition:
Stressors such as:
James Eagan Holmes during his first court appearance July 23, 2012.
Notice he looks wide eyed at times, confused at others, yet sleepy or
somewhat remorseful in others. Sure, he could be faking,
but I wouldn't be so quick to judge. You do not know what outer
influence he was under or what truly caused this man to steal
12 innocent lives.
  • school
  • family
  • relationship status
  • obsessive behavior
  • difficult assignments
  • chosen area of study
  • grades
  • dropping out
  • quiet
  • introvert
  • restless
  • apprehensive
  • frightened
  • anxious
  • grandiose thinking
  • grandiose behavior
  • changes in appetite
  • delusions
  • paranoia
  • lack of concern for personal hygiene
  • insomnia
  • sadness or hopelessness
  • hallucinations
  • social isolation
  • rapid language
  • change in social behavior
  • extreme disturbance in mood

I realize that is a long list and I know what you're thinking... OMG, I have everyone of those symptoms, what is wrong with me. First, you don't have every one of those symptoms and second, you are not insane... at least I BELIEVE you aren't insane and if you are, for God's sake, get some help.

So what do these symptoms indicate? A mental disorder called schizo-affective disorder.
I'm no psychologist, though I can't wait to take my psych classes in the spring. This is just my amateur opinion based on the information available and the education I've received thus far from my criminal justice degree. Simply stated, there is possibly enough evidence to either convict Holmes, or have him committed. I pray justice will be served and that God's will be done.

"Dearly beloved, avenge not yourselves, but rather give place unto wrath: for it is written,
Vengeance is mine; I will repay, saith the Lord"
                                                    ~Roman 12:19

I hope I've filled your brains with a little insight, knowledge or general info regarding the case. I plan to follow it to the end. Please continue to pray for the families of those affected by this recent tragedy.

Until tomorrow,

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