Were James Holmes’ Actions Premeditated?

Murder, Crime
The Century 16 theater in Aurora, CO
Picture courtesy of Algr.

Accused movie theater shooter James Holmes was officially charged with 142 criminal counts resulting from the 12 dead and 58 wounded during his vicious rampage on July 20, 2012 in Aurora, Colorado. The list of charges included 24 counts of first degree murder, two counts for each person he is accused of killing, 116 counts of attempted first degree murder, one count of possession of an explosive device and one count of violent crime.

There are many unanswered questions surrounding the horrific act perpetrated by Holmes. But one of the few things that appears to be clear was his detailed planning. Over a period of two months prior to the Colorado shooting, Holmes purchased a gas mask, ballistic helmet, tear gas canisters, tactical Kevlar gloves and other Kevlar body armor, two Glock .40 caliber semi-automatic handguns, a Remington 12 gauge tactical shotgun, a .223 caliber AR-15 semi-automatic rifle with 100 round magazines, and over 6,000 rounds of live ammunition. In fact his battle dress reflected that of a SWAT officer responding to the scene of the nightmare. It is quite possible that Holmes was attempting to capitalize on the chaos of the shooting and blend in with SWAT officers as they arrived on scene and quietly slip away undetected. Two astute, real SWAT officers immediately recognized a small defect in Holmes’ costume and suspected he was the shooter. These officers detained and ultimately arrested Holmes next to his parked car behind the movie theater where the shooting occurred. Was this detailed planning the work of a calculated cold-blooded killer, or the act of someone crazy and delusional?

The legal wrangling has already begun with many contending that Holmes is legally insane and that he did not understand what he was doing was wrong. How else can society explain his actions? How could a sane person perpetrate such a horrific act? That position, while understandable, does not coincide with Holmes’ actions starting the two months prior to the shooting. From the shopping spree to the meticulous details, Holmes thought of it all. From one perspective, this seems to be an airtight case of premeditated murder and no psychiatrist could weasel Holmes out of the death penalty. That belief is based predominantly on the calculated moves made by Holmes before the shooting ever occurred—but is that enough?

Now, contrast the meticulous, detailed Holmes with the  Holmes  in a near catatonic state at any of his numerous court hearings and the insanity angle appears legit. Holmes’ hair dyed an eerie blood red. His hair unkempt and wild, giving a glimpse into his twisted mind. The glazed look on his face and the vacant look in his eyes scream “insane.” Can such an intelligent man, one who has studied the human mind at length, be this crazy?  Or is he just acting crazy based upon what knowledge he has of the human mind in an effort to keep him from getting a lethal injection? Is Holmes malingering or faking, or is Holmes truly out of his mind? While the truth may never be known, the criminal justice system will answer the question as best it can.