Colorado Theater Shooter's Notebook to Take Center Stage

Tuesday, May 26, 2015

CENTENNIAL, Colorado -- One of the most mysterious pieces of evidence in the Aurora, Colorado, theater shooting case will be further revealed when the trial of James Holmes enters its fifth week.

The now-infamous notebook with the words "James Holmes" and "My Life" written on the front cover, has been a huge controversy in the case since the beginning.

There have been intense arguments in the past three years as to whether the notebook should be admitted into evidence. It is a Pandora's Box written by the gunman in the weeks before the shooting. His thoughts will be interpreted by both sides, but first presented by the prosecution.

Holmes, 27, mailed it to his psychiatrist on July 19, 2012, just hours before he booby-trapped his apartment and then entered a midnight showing of "The Dark Knight Rises" dressed head to toe in ballistic gear on a mission to kill as many people as he could to increase what he referred to in the notebook as his "human capitol."

He faces 166 charges, including numerous counts of murder, attempted murder and possession of explosives, in the July 20, 2012, attack, in which 12 people were killed and 70 injured. He has pleaded not guilty by reason of insanity.

Holmes' attorneys say he cataloged his thoughts in the notebook -- which looks like a typical college student project, plastic-covered with colorful separators -- in the weeks before the shooting.

During opening statements, the court heard what was inside for the first time as Holmes' lawyer, public defender Dan King waved it in the air and read his client's writings: "We are all one unity, as such there is no difference between life and death or space time. ...Why? Why? Why? Why? Why? Why? Why? Why does the value of a person even matter?"

"This notebook," said King,"is a whole lot of crazy."

But prosecutors presented the contents of the notebook differently.

"It was a philosophical discourse," Arapaho County District Attorney George Brauchler said to the 24-person jury.

Pages of the notebook were shown on screens in the courtroom that day. One monitor is over the jurors' heads, one is just to the left of where the defendant and his attorneys sit, and a third is displayed behind Judge Carlos Samour Jr.

In the notebook, Holmes' scribbled out "his longstanding hatred of mankind," and asked questions about the meaning of life and death, Brauchler said. Holmes then supported these theories with drawings and diagrams of the actions he would take -- actions which "would make him feel better," the prosecutor said.

Prosecutors say the missive was intended for his family: Goober, Bobbo, and Chrissy, pet names for his mother, Arlene; father, Robert; and younger sister Chris.

Holmes mailed the notebook from a post office near the Century 16 theater on a Thursday, but it arrived at the University of Colorado Medical School mail room on the weekend and sat there until the next Monday. His psychiatrist, Lynne Fenton, never saw it.

The defendant's writings will be interpreted by both sides as they battle out whether he was sane or insane the night he opened fire with a shotgun, a semi-assault rifle and a Glock handgun into a theater full of excited Batman fans.

It is unclear how this crucial evidence from Holmes' mind will be presented to the court. Will the jury receive a copy of the notebook to read for themselves? Will it be displayed page by page on the courtroom TV screens? Or will it be read aloud like a grim storybook?

The district attorney hinted Thursday before the Memorial Day break that his case, which is nearing the halfway point, will take a turn starting this week. The court has yet to hear from state psychiatrists who evaluated the defendant in nearly 48 hours of taped interviews.

The defense says it will take about a month to put on its case, but, explained King, there have been some duplicate witnesses, so it may not take as long as that.

Legal observers say three months of being subjected to grueling testimony and then a possible month of sentencing will be hard on the 19-woman and five-man jury. Some of the evidence has been tedious, including hours of plotting out bullet impacts in dozens of theater seats.

Last week, Samour admonished one juror for seemingly falling asleep.

But no one was sleeping as court wound down Thursday, as the Arapahoe County Coroner described the autopsies of half of the 12 gunshot victims, including those of 6-year-old Veronica Moser-Sullivan. The jury passed around Kleenex, dabbed their eyes, and quietly walked out of the room for a much-needed holiday break.

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