CENTENNIAL, Colo. — Voices raised inside an Arapahoe County District Court room Thursday, as the defense team for the Aurora theater shooter began the presentation of their case almost three years after the attack that left 12 dead and another 70 injured.
But it was Arapahoe County District Attorney George Brauchler who was responsible for the raised decibel level.
Tensions started to peak after lead defense attorney Dan King spent most of the day benignly questioning his second witness, Dr. Jonathan Woodcock. The psychiatrist interviewed James Holmes, the admitted gunman who has pleaded not guilty by reason of insanity, just four days after the July 20, 2012 shooting inside the Century 16 theater during a midnight premiere of the Batman film “The Dark Knight Rises.”
Woodcock spent much of Thursday describing the two-hour interview conducted at the request of the defense, which he said ultimately lead him to believe Holmes was legally insane.
Specifically, Woodcock said there was “no doubt” in his mind that Holmes was psychotic “long before” July 24, 2012, and appeared to be suffering from schizoaffective disorder, which often is a precursor to an official schizophrenia diagnosis.
Woodcock also went over what he called a “strong history” of psychotic disorders in Holmes’ family, saying that his father’s fraternal twin suffered from schizoaffective disorder herself.
While Holmes displayed “considerable organization of thought” in the interview, Woodcock said, he also demonstrated “clear delusions” and an uncanny amount of “emotional flattening.”
In fact, Woodcock told King, considering the crime he had committed four days earlier, Holmes was as emotionally flat as “anyone I’ve seen in 30-plus years” as a psychiatrist. Coupled with the delusions, Woodcock said, he felt it interfered with Holmes’ judgement and stopped him from being able to form the intent to act, which is a necessity of legal sanity.
Then it was Brauchler’s turn.
While he didn’t dispute Woodcock’s level of experience as a psychiatrist, Brauchler sharply attacked Woodcock’s lack of forensic experience both before and after his testimony about the interview he conducted with Holmes.
While Woodcock was dubbed an expert in the categories of neurology and psychiatry by District Court Judge Carlos Samour Jr., Brauchler made the case that clinical psychiatry — Woodcock’s specialty — is much different the forensic variety.
Taking aim at Woodock’s claim that he was confident in his diagnosis of Holmes because the admitted gunman was “very forthcoming” and that this interview was very akin to one of his clinical visits, Brauchler pressed Woodcock.
“Is it fair to say that someone facing the death penalty might have more reason to lie than someone just stopping into your office?” Brauchler asked.
Woodcock reluctantly agreed, as he often did during multiple hours of fiery cross examination from Brauchler, who also dug into the psychiatrist’s interview methods.
Brauchler called attention to Woodcock’s documentation methods, with Woodcock admitting that his testimony about an interview conducted almost three years ago was “partly coming from notes, and partly from memory.”
As he often did during his cross examination of Woodcock, Brauchler responded with a snarky remark, suggestion video “would have helped” in the process of documenting the interview. Woodcock chose not to videotape his interview with Holmes.
In addition, Brauchler indicated that an investigator for the defense team was present for the interview and that he helped Holmes answer “at least one” of Woodcock’s questions.
While he confirmed the investigator was present, Woodcock said he couldn’t remember if that individual helped Holmes answer any questions.
The prosecution rested on June 19 after almost seven weeks spent presenting their case. The defense team has indicated it will take them about two weeks to present their case.
If Holmes is found guilty of first-degree murder, a sentencing hearing will ensue. Samour has scheduled a month for that hearing, should it be necessary.