NATION

Defense in Colorado theater shooting trial rests its case

The defense in the Colorado theater shooting trial rested its case Friday after trying to show James Holmes was legally insane when he carried out the deadly 2012 attack, suffering from delusions that each person he killed would increase his self-worth. 

Holmes' public defenders presented two weeks of testimony that featured a pair of psychiatrists who examined him and found he met the legal standard for insanity.

Earlier in the trial, two court-appointed doctors testified for the prosecution that they concluded Holmes knew the difference between right and wrong at the time of the killings and therefore was sane under Colorado law.

Defense attorneys highlighted Holmes' sometimes bizarre behavior after the shooting, including playing with paper bags that were placed over his hands to preserve gunshot residue.

On Friday, they rested after playing two silent surveillance videos of Holmes taken in the months following the attack. One showed him in his jail cell, running and slamming his head against the wall, falling backward and sitting down.

The other, taken at a hospital, showed Holmes naked and tethered to a bed, repeatedly trying to cover his head with a blanket and then a sheet. Uniformed officers and hospital workers pull them off and try to cover the lower half of Holmes' body with them. 

Holmes' lawyers contended from the start that he was in the grip of a psychotic episode when he killed 12 people and injured 70 at a Denver-area movie theater.

Their task was to raise reasonable doubt over whether Holmes was sane and show he should not be held accountable for his actions because of his depleted mental state.

In Colorado, prosecutors have the burden of proof in insanity cases. Most states and the federal system place that burden on defendants. 

The defense made its largely clinical case in about a quarter of the time that prosecutors took to present emotional and sometimes gruesome testimony from shooting survivors and investigators, which included photos of wounds and video of carnage inside the theater.

Its star witness, schizophrenia expert Dr. Raquel Gur, said Holmes showed signs of schizophrenia even before he began post-graduate neuroscience studies in Colorado in 2011, and that he was emotionless in 28 hours of interviews over two years. 

Holmes' psychosis rendered him incapable of knowing right from wrong at the time of the shooting, she declared flatly.

Gur, head of neuropsychiatry at the University of Pennsylvania medical school, said Holmes still suffers bizarre delusions that preoccupied him before the shooting, including his belief that killing others would increase his own self-worth. 

Holmes' attorneys also referenced a family history of disorders, including an aunt of Holmes who had schizophrenia and a grandfather who was institutionalized.

Holmes did not take the stand during the 2 1/2-month trial. When asked by Judge Carlos A. Samour whether he would Thursday, Holmes replied, “I choose not to testify” in a clear, firm voice. 

Prosecutors did not call any rebuttal witnesses as they were expected to do.

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