Theater gunman knew shooting was ‘legally wrong’ |

Theater gunman knew shooting was ‘legally wrong’

FILE - In this March 12, 2013, file photo, James Holmes, left, and defense attorney Tamara Brady appear in district court in Centennial, Colo., for his arraignment. Prosecutors are methodically building a case that Holmes knew right from wrong when he planned and carried out the deadly Colorado theater shooting, hoping to convince jurors that he should be convicted and executed and not sent to a mental hospital. (RJ Sangosti/The Denver Post via AP, Pool, File)
AP | Pool Denver Post

CENTENNIAL, Colo. — James Holmes knew his mission to shoot as many people as possible in a crowded Colorado movie theater was legally wrong, according to a videotaped conversation between Holmes and a psychiatrist that prosecutors are playing in court.

Holmes told psychiatrist William Reid he knew he could be punished for killing people and repeatedly referred to the shooting that killed 12 people and injured 70 others as a crime.

The exchange came during Reid’s court-ordered sanity evaluation of Holmes conducted last year. Holmes has pleaded not guilty by reason of insanity to the July 20, 2012, rampage at a suburban Denver movie theater during a midnight premiere of a Batman film. The interview will be a key consideration for jurors as they decide whether Holmes was so distorted by mental illness that he couldn’t tell right from wrong at the time of the attack.

Prosecutors are showing jurors nearly all of the 22 hours of the interviews, which is expected to take until Wednesday or Thursday.

In footage shown Monday, Holmes also said he believed he gained a specific amount of self-worth for each of the people he killed, but he regrets that one of the victims was a child.

In a flat, emotionless voice, Holmes tells Reid he collected one “value unit” for each person who died.

“I was worth 12 more people than I was before,” Holmes says.

Did the wounded count? Reid asks.

“I only count fatalities,” Holmes replies.

Holmes also tells the psychiatrist he tried to limit the number of children killed by carrying out the attack at a late showing of a PG-13 movie.

Defense lawyers say Holmes had severe schizophrenia, which distorted his sense of right and wrong. They want him to be committed to the state mental hospital. Prosecutors argue Holmes should be convicted and executed.

Reid concluded Holmes was legally sane at the time of the attack.

“Whatever regret he had, he makes it clear that getting the points and killing the people was worth it,” Reid said Monday under questioning by District Attorney George Brauchler.

Colorado law defines insanity as the inability to tell right from wrong because of a mental disease or defect, or the inability to form the intent necessary to commit a crime because of a mental disease or defect.

On another part of the video, Holmes tells Reid that human life has value, and by taking lives, he added to his own worth.

“Anything they would have pursued gets canceled out and given to me,” he says.

Asked by Reid if that calculation still makes sense to him, Holmes replies, “Yeah.”

Holmes repeatedly refers to the shooting as his “mission,” telling Reid he meticulously planned for the violence but not the consequences. He figured police would kill him or he would die in prison. He told Reid he never considered the possibility of getting away.

“That speaks to me about how uncomfortable he was about living in the world,” Reid told jurors.

Other key points from the videotape shown Monday:

— He says he took cellphone photos of himself and his weapons before the attack “to be remembered.”

— Holmes says he wore body armor and carried first-aid equipment and tire spikes in case police shot at him and they followed him in his car.

“I wanted to be protected in case it came to a shootout between the police and me,” he says. Officers arrested him without a struggle just outside the theater.

Associated Press Writer Dan Elliott contributed to this story.

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