Aurora theater shooting trial: Psychiatrist walks back comments on Holmes’ mental illness

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AURORA | A day after he said James Holmes’ mental illness caused the Aurora theater shooting, a doctor who examined the Aurora theater shooting defendant for 22 hours walked those comments back on Friday.

“Without the mental illness we wouldn’t be here,” Dr. William Reid testified. “Just as without his moving to Colorado we wouldn’t be here.”

Reid said that while Holmes was delusional and had a mental illness similar to schizophrenia, he believed those things didn’t cause the shooting, though they were factors. Holmes had the capacity to know right from wrong and didn’t believe there was some force making him commit the shootings, Reid said.

Reid said he was “extremely confident” Holmes was sane and had the capacity to know right from wrong.

While other doctors have said Holmes is schizophrenic, Reid rejected that conclusion. He said part of the reason for his diagnosis was how quickly Holmes improved when he was medicated following a psychotic break in the jail a few months after the shooting.

The drugs doctors gave Holmes quickly ended that psychotic episode and seemed to work well, Reid said. That isn’t always the case in a case of schizophrenia, he said, and those patients often take a while for the medication to work.

Reid diagnosed Holmes with a schizotypal disorder.

The defense tried to poke holes in Reid’s diagnoses, noting that he is not a neurologist nor an expert in schizophrenia. Another doctor, who examined Holmes at the defense’s request, is a neurologist and a schizophrenia expert. That doctor said he was schizophrenic and insane.

The defense also noted for the jury that Reid believed Holmes was not only delusional, but that the plans he meticulously carried out were wholly irrational.

After six days on the stand, Reid wrapped his testimony late Friday. The trial is in recess until Monday morning.

Friday’s session started with the judge scolding District Attorney George Brauchler for sending a tweet during testimony Thursday.

The tweet, which has since been deleted, went out at 4:51 p.m. Thursday, shortly after the defense started cross examining Reid.

The defense said the tweet violated the judge’s order barring the lawyers from using social media in the courtroom, but it was also inappropriate considering the magnitude of the case.

“If the prosecution is seeking the execution of a man, perhaps the district attorney should pay attention to the cross examination of the mental health experts,” public defender Tamara Brady said.

Brauchler said the tweet was an accident and he meant it to be a text message. He called it an embarrassing mistake and apologized to the judge and personally to public defender Dan King, who was cross examining Reid when Brauchler sent the tweet.

Judge Carlos Samour Jr. opted not to punish the prosecution over the tweet, but said it was inappropriate. He said there was nothing so important that the lawyers need to send a text or email or tweet from the court room.

“Even texts, it seems to me, is something that should wait,” he said. He said neither side is allowed to send any texts, or emails, or tweets from the courtroom.

Samour said the two sides don’t need five lawyers in court at all times, as they have had for most of the trial.

“If you are bored and don’t want to pay attention to the preceding you can leave, you don’t need to be here,” he said.

Brauchler is active on twitter and uses it regularly to discuss politics and share information about the DA’s office. Generally, his Twitter use has been limited to evenings after court since the trial started.

The public and media are barred from having phones in the courtroom, but lawyers for both sides have phones and — before Samour amended his order Friday to bar even texting — regularly looked at them in court.

Holmes is accused of killing 12 and wounding 70 others during the July 2012 attack at an Aurora movie theater. He has pleaded not guilty by reason of insanity and prosecutors are seeking the death penalty.

The trial started in late April and is expected to continue through August or September. The defense is expected to start their case in late June.