James Holmes may be the most hated man in America right now. Overheard at the water cooler have been comments like, “If he was so upset with life, why didn’t he just shoot himself?” Or “You have to be afraid just to leave your home these days.” “People are just crazy.”
It is clear from his actions at the Colorado movie theater that Holmes is disturbed. His body language at his court room appearance had most people thinking he was either drugged or psychotic. But what does this all mean for him and the prosecution legally? Should Holmes be using the insanity defense?
According to the Farlex Legal Dictionary, the definition of an insanity plea is as follows:
A defense asserted by an accused in a criminal prosecution to avoid liability for the commission of a crime because, at the time of the crime, the person did not appreciate the nature or quality or wrongfulness of the acts.
In other words, the criminal should be found innocent because he didn’t know what he was doing was wrong. It is not the same as being incompetent to stand trial, where the defendant would be treated in a facility until he is deemed competent.
Sometimes the determination of insanity of a defendant is decided in a separate proceeding before or after the determination of guilt and sometimes in the verdict by the judge or jury. The death penalty is taken out of play if the defendant is determined to be insane. If the insanity defense is invoked and the court still finds the defendant guilty, the evidence presented – usually by expert witnesses- is still allowed to be considered during sentencing.
Using the insanity plea is legal Russian roulette, as statistically, only one in five juries find in favor of criminals who use the insanity defense and inherent in the defense, is the admission that the defendant actually committed the criminal act.
For more information about the insanity defense, click here.