– Cinema Shooting: Judge Approves ‘Truth Serum’ (Sky News, March 12, 2013):
The student accused of the Colorado cinema massacre could be given “truth serum” to help determine whether he is insane, a judge has ruled.
James Holmes, 25, who is accused of killing 12 people and injuring 70 others during a shooting rampage at a Batman movie premiere, is expected to enter a plea today.
Defence lawyers have indicated that the former neuroscience graduate might plead not guilty by reason of insanity.
If he does, the judge has ruled he might have to submit to a “narcoanalytic interview” – including the use of what some have dubbed a “truth serum” – as part of the evaluation of his mental state.
A narcoanalytic interview is a decades-old process in which patients are given drugs to lower their inhibition.
The judge said Holmes could also be given a lie detector test as part of the evaluation.
Holmes will face 166 counts during an arraignment hearing in connection with the shooting spree at a cinema in Aurora, Colorado, last July.
Last week, the same judge rejected defence claims that the rules relating to an insanity plea were unconstitutional.
Holmes was arrested immediately after the shootings at a midnight showing of The Dark Knight Rises.
A preliminary hearing in January was presented with harrowing evidence of the scene inside the cinema in the aftermath of the shooting and the desperate attempts to save lives.
The court also heard evidence that Holmes spent months planning the mass killing, purchasing weapons, ammunition and body armour, and booby-trapping his apartment.
Prosecutors will have 60 days after a plea is entered to announce whether they will seek the death penalty.
Defence lawyers claimed that if an insanity plea is entered it would force them to turn over potentially incriminating evidence to the prosecution.
That could be used against him, they say, if the death penalty is sought, despite his constitutional right not to incriminate himself.
Colorado is also unusual in putting the burden of proof on the prosecution in a case where an insanity plea has been entered.
Craig Silverman, a former deputy district attorney for Denver, said: “Was he suffering from a mental disease or defect that rendered him incapable of distinguishing right and wrong?
“If the defence had to prove that, that would be one thing, but here in Colorado the prosecution has to disprove it. To prove sanity beyond a reasonable doubt with James Holmes could be tough.”
He said he expected the case to take many further twists and turns, adding: “I have been predicting delay after delay.
“Delay is the natural ally of any death penalty defendant. The longer the case drags out the longer the client is assured to stay alive.”
Dozens of survivors and relatives of those who died are expected to attend the hearing. Judge William Sylvester has allowed a television camera in court, but there will be no audio of the proceedings.
The case, the worst in modern American history in terms of the number of people shot, prompted renewed debate about America’s gun laws.
Politicians in Colorado have moved to put new restrictions in place within the state, while the national effort to tighten the rules appears to have stalled.
Court documents have revealed that Holmes was held for “several days, frequently in restraints” in hospital in November after authorities said he was in need of immediate psychiatric help.
The same week he was rushed to the hospital after banging his head into a prison wall.