|James Holmes appearance in Arapahoe County Justice Center|
Everyone seems to have an opinion about James Holmes, the now infamous Dark Night Rises gunman. Speculations made by “expert psychologists” are airing incessantly on nearly every news channel in the US. The general consensus is that Holmes is indeed suffering from some sort of mental health issue and will almost undoubtedly be pleading insanity. However, legal experts are saying James Holmes will probably get the death penalty of his crimes.
In The State of Colorado v. James Holmes (12CR1522) charges are yet to be filed in court. Prosecutors are expected to bring formal charges at the July 30 hearing. The prosecution’s case is extraordinarily strong, with a veritable mountain of evidence stacked up against Holmes.
The State of Colorado uses a verified version of the M’Naghten Rule with the Irresistible Impulse Test. The burden of proof is on the prosecution, but it’s clear they’ve got that covered. With the severity of crimes and multiple instances of extreme aggravating factors, avoiding the death penalty is going to be a difficult feat for his attorney.
It’s certain that Holmes will be charged with at least 12 counts of 1st Degree Murder. In 1st degree murder cases, the prosecution must prove that the murders were pre-meditated and that they were committed in cold blood. Proving both is no problem, as Holmes purchased thousands of rounds of ammo and dressed in riot gear before he entered the theater. It’s clear he intended to murder innocent people.
In New York State, capital punishment guidelines are set forth in the Model Penal Code, and the defendant has the burden of proof. This means the lawyer’s first duty in a capital punishment case where the defense is insanity is to have multiple expert witnesses evaluate Holmes and form professional opinions that will stand up in court.
In order for an insanity defense to work, Holmes must not have been able to tell the difference between right and wrong at the time he committed the crimes and he must not be able to comprehend the charges against him. But, the evidence is so strong against him; an insanity defense may be of no use. It can easily be proven that this was an especially heinous crime and extreme sentences can and will be imposed.