Aurora shooter’s defense attorneys ask jury to ‘accept reality of mental disease’

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CENTENNIAL, Colo. – Defense attorneys for James Holmes, the admitted gunman in the Aurora theater shooting, said he was insane at the time of crime and not in control of his actions.

Holmes suffered from schizophrenia, according to Daniel King and Katherine Spengler, the two public defenders who presented the defense’s opening statements on Monday.

“When James Holmes stepped into that theater on July of 2012, he was insane,” King said.

According to King, Holmes has been evaluated by over 20 psychiatrists since the theater shooting, all of whom agree that he has psychosis and is not faking.

King reminded jurors of their duty to set aside prejudices and asked them to “accept the reality of mental disease" -- especially one that has been clinically diagnosed.

“(Mental disease) is a reality that the prosecution has chosen not to accept because it doesn't suit their purposes,” he said.

However, King said the defense will not contest what took place during the shooting that killed 12 and injured 70 more.

“Why?” King repeated, quoting Holmes' writings. “Why?”

The “why,” King said, is mental illness.

King said Holmes’ mind had given in to a battle the 27-year-old had fought, in his own words, “for years and years” against schizophrenia, a disease King described as a disease of mind "much like cancer is a disease of the body."

One example of Holmes' alleged psychosis included his suggesting bags put on his hands to preserve gunshot residue after the shooting were "for popcorn." Another was his erratic behavior in jail, like saying Obama was communicating with him through the TV and doing backwards somersaults naked with a paper cup balanced on his privates.

Spengler detailed Holmes’ lifelong struggle against mental illness, which included attempted suicide at the age of 11 and genetic tendencies towards schizophrenia.

Holmes began losing his battling against mental illness in 2011, Spengler contested, a year that involved a breakup with his first and only girlfriend and well as his first struggles in school.

This confluence of events, Spengler contested, triggered Holmes' psychotic break.

Even though he may have planned the murders, Spengler said, those plans were based on psychotic delusions from his schizophrenia.

“Planning is not inconsistent with insanity when it’s fueled by a delusional illness,” Spengler said.

Leading back to the question of why the shooting happened, Spengler concluded the defense’s opening statements by reiterating that the “why” is rooted in mental illness.

“Even though there is a ‘why,’ you have to be prepared for it not to make logical sense,” Spengler said.