James Holmes' sealed notebook gets mentioned by prosecution, and defense

James Holmes' sealed notebook gets mentioned by prosecution, and defense
Colorado theater shooter James Holmes, left, sits at the defense table at the opening of his trial in Centennial, Colo., on April 27. The trial will determine whether he'll be executed, spend his life in prison or be committed to an institution as criminally insane. (Colorado Judicial Department)

One of the enduring mysteries of the Aurora, Colo., shooting rampage in 2012 was largely solved on Monday, the first day of James E. Holmes' murder trial, when prosecutors and defense attorneys quoted from an unassuming notebook.

Shortly before he swathed himself in protective gear, booby-trapped his apartment and headed to the Century 16 theater on a mission to kill as many people as he could, Holmes sent a plain-looking composition book to a psychiatrist he had visited several times.


The notebook was found in a University of Colorado mailroom after the shooting that left 12 dead and 70 injured. It had been described in search warrants as brown with a placard on the cover that said "James Holmes." Also written on the outside of the notebook were the words "My Life."

The notebook, which was sealed, has been bitterly contested, with arguments over whether it should be admitted into evidence, whether it was part of privileged doctor-patient communication, whether a reporter could be forced to divulge the sources who told her about the contents of the notebook despite a gag order.

On Monday, pages of the book were flashed onto the flat screens that hang in Judge Carlos Samour Jr.'s courtroom, one over the jury box, one to Holmes' left, one to Samour's left. Passages were read aloud. Like Scripture, it was used by both sides for their own purposes.

Although Holmes has admitted to carrying out the massacre, he has pleaded not guilty by reason of insanity. The notebook gives each side ammunition.

Arapahoe County Dist. Atty. George Brauchler introduced the volume, telling the jury that it was intended for Holmes' family members, who the shooter referred to in the journal by their nicknames: Goober, his mother, Arlene Holmes. Chrissy, his sister, Chris Holmes. Bobbo, his father, Robert Holmes.

Holmes' writings, Brauchler said, were often a "philosophical discourse" addressing questions such as, "What is the meaning of life?" and "What is the meaning of death?"

"He also talks about his long-standing hatred of mankind," Brauchler told the jury, and Holmes laid out plans to carry out the shooting. Schematics of the various theaters inside the multiplex were flashed onto the courtroom screens, with Holmes' drawings and annotations.

Brauchler also displayed damning snippets from the book in Holmes' sloppy handwriting: "I decided to dedicate my life to killing others." "The obsession to kill since I was a kid."

Holmes used the journal to compare the relative merits of various methods of killing human beings, Brauchler said. Bombs didn't pass muster. Biological warfare "took too much knowledge."

He thought about serial killing, dabbled with carrying out such a scheme on national forest trails, bought a stun gun and folding knife, Brauchler said, before settling on mass murder, in a movie theater rather than an airport, which would be "too much like terrorism."

But public defender Daniel King derided Brauchler for teasing out only the most damning tidbits. In fact, he started out his opening statements to the jury by flashing a picture of the notebook's simple cover onto the screen and saying, slowly, "James Holmes' notebook, written in the weeks right before the shooting."

And then King began to read long, rambling passages penned by the failed neuroscience student:

"We are all one unity," King read. "As such, there is no difference between life and death or space time... The universe is a single unitary preponderance ... attempts at redactions into fractured entities....

"Why? Why? Why?" King continued. "Why? Why? Why? Why does the value of a person even matter if life has no value... any and all actions have no impact on anything.... All men are created equal. All men are uncreated equal. But in between is inequality."


King read some more, about negativity and zero and how Holmes said he spent his life trying to answer questions about truth and violence and intuition.

And then he paused.

"When James Holmes stepped into that theater in July 2012," King intoned, "he was insane."

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