COMMENTARY | There has been some talk of the alleged Colorado movie-theater killer parlaying his Monday courtroom performance into a full-fledged grab for an insanity defense to the charges he faces. Marissa Randazzo, a guest on Good Morning America and an expert in mass shootings, puts the odds of that shooter faking some kind of mental illness at about “5 percent,” according to the video embedded in the article.
I think she’s far too kind.
The alleged shooter managed to widen his eyes and appear to fall asleep. Reports allege that he has had no trouble sleeping after his alleged heinous crime, and that he’s engaged in some bizarre behavior, like using evidence bags on his hands like puppets. He must be insane, then, right? Young neuroscience graduate students don’t do around killing people unless they’re crazy, right?
Wait, what was that I just said? Neuroscience graduate students? That sounds like it might be important.
This man who looked so perfectly the part of someone suffering from some type of mental condition seems to have used up the most recent chunk of his life demonstrating that he is anything but. He spent months and months apparently carefully planning his assault, gathering weapons, ammunition, tear gas, riot gear, and components for explosives. He had enough attention to detail to rig his apartment to explode without actually blowing himself up.
He put on his gear and carried out his plan, which included entering the theater with a ticket and then opening an exit door to re-enter the theater. When his weapon jammed, he reportedly switched to another weapon.
Sounds like someone who allegedly knew exactly what he was doing.
But we are now supposed to believe that he is barely able to stay awake, and is so out of touch with reality to not recognize he was in a courtroom? That he is so unable to distinguish right from wrong that he displays no remorse and doesn’t seem to grasp the gravity of the situation?
Hmm, that also seems important.
You see, in Colorado, the law requires that defendants prove two things to successfully argue insanity. They have to show that they had a mental illness not caused by drugs and alcohol at the time of the crime, and they have to show that they were unable to understand that their actions were wrong.
Remember that first thing that sounded important? That he was a graduate student in neuroscience? I may not be an expert in mass shootings, but I’m pretty sure that means that he’d have a good idea of what the court’s psychiatrist will be looking for when it’s time for his evaluation. And it’s quite possible it will include that “bizarre” behavior we saw in court.
Maybe I’m a hard skeptic, but it seems that this alleged killer could not be both able to prepare, with frightening, deadly effective detail, his elaborate crime, and yet still be so mentally ill as to not register where he is. Frankly, I think he believes he’s smart enough to get away with it.
There may well be something wrong the Colorado shooter. Does it amount to legal insanity? From what we’ve seen so far, absolutely, coldly, calculatedly, no.