CENTENNIAL, Colo. (Reuters) - Harrowing accounts from survivors dominated the first week of Colorado’s movie theater massacre trial, but amid the tears a much more detailed picture emerged of gunman James Holmes, his personal life, and his deadly plan.
Prosecutors seeking the death penalty for the 27-year-old former neuroscience graduate student, and his public defenders, have filled in many of the gaps left when a judge sealed much of the key evidence in the 2012 mass shooting case.
Both sides painted starkly different pictures of Holmes in Arapahoe County District Court in the Denver suburb of Centennial. Attorneys presented previously unreleased entries from a notebook he sent his psychiatrist, as well as videos of the Southern California native undergoing sanity exams, and apparently trying to injure himself in his jail cell.
In his opening statement, Arapahoe County District Attorney George Brauchler depicted Holmes as a craven killer of superior intellect who planned and carried out the massacre because of his “longstanding hatred of mankind.”
Holmes has pleaded not guilty by reason of insanity to multiple counts of first-degree murder and attempted murder after killing 12 people and wounding 70 at a midnight screening of the Batman film “The Dark Knight Rises” in the Denver suburb of Aurora on July 20, 2012.
In court, Brauchler revealed that two court-appointed forensic psychiatrists had deemed that Holmes was sane at the time.
In one video shown to jurors, Holmes told a psychiatrist the wounded victims were “collateral damage.”
“I only count the fatalities,” he said.
Brauchler also disclosed that when Holmes dyed hair his red, it had nothing to do with the bizarre appearance of the Joker, Batman’s archenemy in 2008’s “The Dark Knight.”
Holmes colored his hair - and bought black contact lenses - to make himself stand out, the prosecutor said. And he posted selfies of his wild, new appearance on adult dating sites.
Brauchler also divulged that Holmes had a girlfriend, the “first love of his life” and his “first sexual experience,” but that they split up a few weeks before the rampage.
“I don’t see a future with you,” she wrote in an online chat with the defendant, which the prosecutor read to the court.
Brauchler also read mundane emails Holmes sent to his parents, discussing everyday topics, including the weather, a funny movie and opening a savings account - all while steadily amassing an arsenal of firearms, ammunition and bomb-making materials.
On the defense side, lawyers have laid out their diagnosis for why he launched the attack.
Attorney Daniel King said both the defendants’ grandfathers and an aunt suffered from serious mental illness, and that as an 11-year-old Holmes attempted suicide.
“Nobody noticed,” King said. “Why? Because he was getting straight A’s.”
The public defender showed his own videos, including one of a naked Holmes running headlong into his jail cell wall, and another of him standing on his bed before toppling back and slamming his head on the floor.
“It sounded like Mr. Brauchler was suggesting that Mr. Holmes might have done this for notoriety,” King told jurors.
“Look at the video, and you tell me if you would do this for notoriety.”
He said Holmes thought the killings would somehow boost his self-worth, or “human capital.”
“He still believes this stuff today, despite the fact that he’s been medicated for over two years,” King said.
The attorney rejected the state’s argument that the defendant’s detailed preparations proved he was sane.
“That’s the crucible of insanity, not planning,” King said.
Holmes has been expressionless in court, wearing a pale blue shirt and glasses, and tethered to the floor beneath his attorneys’ desk.
Gesturing at his client, King told jurors Holmes’ “aloof or distracted” demeanor is caused by the drugs he is being given, which King said treat but do not cure his schizophrenia. Holmes suffers delusions to this day, King said.
“He thought President Obama was communicating with him through the television,” King said.
After his arrest Holmes was moved to a “rubber room,” the public defender added, where he was observed eating lunch meat between two flattened plastic foam cups, licking walls, sucking his thumb, and often “crying and ranting.”
Testimony is set to resume on Monday.
Reporting by Keith Coffman and Daniel Wallis; Editing by Jonathan Oatis