Friday, August 7, 2015

Denver jury rejects death penalty for Aurora theater killer

A Denver-area jury rejected the death penalty for the Aurora theater killer Friday, refusing to accept an obsolete argument of sanity offered by a prosecutor accused by critics of seeking a death penalty to advance his political career.

The ACLU said the trial wasted millions of dollars and caused unnecessary additional suffering. Some would say this money could have been used to provide mental health care and avoid future massacres.

"What a great deal of trauma to bring the victims through over the period of time since Holmes offered to plead guilty," said Denise Maes, public policy director for the American Civil Liberties Union.

"It is deeply unfortunate that our taxpayer dollars had to pay for one of the most expensive trials in the state's history only to achieve the same outcome offered by the defense before the trial even began."

The quick guilty verdict by jurors after less than two days of deliberations, and quick review of the death penalty had made it seem likely the jury would order the killer executed.

The rejection of the death penalty led some commentators to suggest the death penalty was no longer feasible in Colorado, a state
which has gone from red to blue with the influx of immigrants, especially from California. Gun violence across the country may have made some believe more deaths would not solve problems, particularly with the appalling lack of mental health care.

Inept attempts at executions caused because manufacturers showed that the government couldn't even kill efficiently.

Gov. John Hickenlooper, who has declined to allow any executions during his two terms, said:

“Our thoughts remain with the victims and families who have suffered unspeakable tragedy. No verdict can bring back what they have lost but we hope they begin to find peace and healing in the coming weeks.”

James Holmes and his lawyers had agreed to plead guilty and accept a life sentence for the 12 killings that occurred during a screening of the latest Batman movie. The prosecutor insisted on pursuing what became a more than three-month trial with a gory retelling, including videos, of the slaughter.

Fifty people were wounded during the attack by the former University of Colorado graduate student whose danger to the public had been reported by his psychiatrist.

Little time was spent during the trial dealing with why the killings had not been prevented, and there have been more shootings by mentally ill people who managed to get access to weapons.

In recent months there have been two more theater attacks, and in the latest case, in Tennessee, the attacker had in fact been committed at least four times.

Carl Jung, one of the founders of psychiatry, had said that for every psychotic person we know of there are ten more.

The defense and prosecution spent hours debating whether sanity should be determined simply by whether a killer knew right from wrong, no matter how mentally ill.

This so-called “McNaughton rule” on the issue of “diminished responsibility” originated in the United Kingdom in 1843.

Much media coverage focused on this issue, giving little attention to numerous court decisions in other cases that some people were so mentally ill that could not resist the urge to kill even if “a policeman was at their elbow.”

The “Oxford Companion to the Mind” writes that even in 1843 this definition of sanity was obsolete.

“From the medical standpoint,”this all-or-nothing approach to psychological function was already obsolete.

“It had … been shown that inability to distinguish between right and wrong was only one symptom of insanity, and that many mentally disturbed persons knew the difference between right and wrong.”

Some in the community of psychologists and psychiatrists have argued that the lust for vengeance medical opinions can be bought.

The discovery that psychologists had cooperated in the torture of terrorists after the Sept. 11 attacks have further tarnished the reputation of some, though many had publicity condemned such unethical conduct against patients by doctors.

Oxford Companion of the Mind

Botched Executions

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