Rien, Adams & Cox, LLP
S.F. Bay Area & Central Valley925.344.4634Español que se habla aquí

The James Holmes case and the insanity plea

Many California residents are familiar with the ongoing trial of James Holmes, the young man who has been accused of killing 12 people in a theater in Aurora, Colorado and injuring 70 others. The prosecution in the case is seeking the death penalty, while his defense attorneys have entered a plea of not guilty by reason of insanity on his behalf, a type of defense that is poorly understood by the public.

By entering a not guilty by reason of insanity plea, his defense attorneys have admitted that Holmes is the person who actually committed the crimes of which he is accused. There argument is instead based on the idea that although he did it, he was insane at the time the murders were committed. This type of defense is rarely used, and it is one that is only successful in about 25 percent of the cases in which it is raised.

Such a plea is not the same as simply saying a person was mentally ill at the time of their offense. Instead, a finding of not guilty by reason of insanity proceeds under the M'Naghten test. That test requires juries find whether the defendant knew the difference between right and wrong when the offense was committed. If his attorneys are successful, he will then be committed to a mental health institution until he is no longer deemed to be a threat, potentially up to the rest of his life. If he is convicted, he will likely be executed instead.

Determining the proper criminal defense strategy in capital murder cases is often a complicated decision. It is advisable for those who are charged with such an offense to obtain the assistance of an experience criminal defense attorney who may be able to determine if there is a possibility of obtaining an agreement with the prosecutor which would entail a plea of guilty to a lesser charge.

No Comments

Leave a comment
Comment Information

Office Location:

Rien, Adams & Cox, LLP 39 South Livermore Avenue Suite 209 Livermore, CA 94550 Phone: 925-344-4634 Fax: (925) 449-3257 Map & Directions

Email