"One is absolutely sickened, not by the crimes that the wicked have committed, but by the punishments that the good have inflicted." -- Oscar Wilde

Friday, June 5, 2015

A look inside the 'broken' mind of James Holmes

James Holmes during his July 2012 court appearance
James Holmes during his July 2012 court appearance (CNN)
It's first time the public has heard Holmes talk about the now-infamous mass shooting, one of the worst in recent history. After his arrest, he ended police questioning after eight minutes by asking for a lawyer.

To some he comes across as cold, to others he seems completely disconnected.

It is unusual for a suspect in a mass killing to survive and go to trial, much less describe an attack in detail. Usually, the suspects die by their own hand or are killed by police, an outcome popularly known as "suicide by cop." But Holmes meekly surrendered to police in the parking lot outside the theater.

And so, earlier this week, the jury heard him describe what it was like to walk into a packed movie theater, toss a tear gas grenade into the crowd and open fire. Jurors also heard him explain why he felt he had to do it. The victims had to die, Holmes said, so he wouldn't.

He told Reid about gearing up, donning bullet-proof pants, gloves and a gas mask and slinging the AR-15 rifle over his shoulder, tucking the Glock into his belt and picking up his loaded shotgun. He said he couldn't see well in the dark because of the gas mask.

As he stepped out of his car outside the theater, he said he called a mental health hotline at the university. It was one last chance to "stop the mission" and back out.

But no one picked up the phone.

Even if someone had tried to talk him down, Holmes said, he or she likely would have been "overruled." He waited nine seconds and then grew certain that the mission was a go.

"It was really going to happen," he said.

He felt "calm and collected" as if he was on "autopilot" as he started shooting. He knew he was well-prepared.

He doesn't remember hearing gunshots or panicked screams; he had techno music blasting through the ear buds he wore. He didn't view his targets as people. He didn't even know them, he said. They were just "amorphous" numbers, sacrifices to his peculiar point system.

James E. Holmes
James E. Holmes (CNN)
Jurors have also learned about Holmes' family and what makes him tick. He has believed since he was a teenager that his mind was "broken." He said he had been obsessed with killing for more than a decade. Brauchler said in his opening statement that Holmes killed to make him feel better about himself after a series of personal setbacks, including failing at school and breaking up with his girlfriend.

Holmes wrote in his notebook that he studied neurology in college and grad school in a failed attempt to fix his own "broken mind."

His childhood was haunted by night terrors in which "Nail Ghosts" hammered on the walls. Shadows and "flickerings" danced in his peripheral vision. He has been depressed and obsessed with murder since about age 14, he says, because it was the only viable alternative to suicide.

No voices commanded Holmes to kill. The idea was completely his own, he told Reid.

"I'd say I was on my own authority."

He said he considered carrying out the mass shooting at the movie theater since the day he bought the shotgun -- May 28, according to court records.

He listed a host of physical maladies -- from schizophrenia to Asperger's to restless leg syndrome -- in a section called "Self-Diagnosis of a Broken Mind." He complained of fatigue, catatonia, insomnia, social awkwardness and isolation, hyperactivity and problems with his eyes, ears, nose -- "constant dripping" -- and even his penis, which he said he injured as a child. He studies himself and his "physical shortcomings" in the mirror obsessively.

But perhaps the biggest symptom of his broken brain, he said, was the difficulty he has forming his thoughts into words. He simply cannot communicate, and contact with other human beings makes him very uncomfortable. It feeds his hatred for "humanity."

He struggles with an "odd sense of self," waging a constant battle between his "real self" and his "biological self."

He noted that he had recently "lost" the battle by allowing himself to fall in love.

"So always, that's my mind," he wrote. "It is broken. I tried to fix it. I made it my sole conviction but using something that's broken to fix itself proved insurmountable."

He pursued knowledge as a cure, but it didn't work.

"Neuroscience seemed like the way to go but it didn't pan out. In order to rehabilitate the broken mind, my soul must be eviscerated. I could not sacrifice my soul to have a 'normal' mind."

He said he "fought and fought" until the end. To relieve his personal torture, he sought to escape by distracting himself or ignoring the problem. Still, his depression and low opinion of himself persisted.

And so, in the end, he made a choice and noted it in his composition book: "The last escape, mass murder at the movies."

Source: CNN, Ann O'Neill, Ana Cabrera and Sara Weisfeldt, June 5, 2015

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