Regular readers will know I’ve changed my views on capital punishment. When TTAG writer Jon Wayne Taylor – who watched an execution in Texas – said “I’m not comfortable with our government executing Americans” I decided that capital punishment was a bad idea. The potential downside (opening the door to government homicide and genocide) is greater than the upside (punishment fitting the crime, closure for survivors). As a former supporter, I understand the frustration and outrage unleashed by the Aurora cinema killer’s life sentence. After all . . .
This is a man who killed 12 innocent people and injured (some permanently and grievously) 70 more. The toll included a pregnant mother who lost both her unborn child and her two-year-old daughter. I can’t think of a gruesome death that Holmes doesn’t deserve.
But again, society must protect itself both from wanton slaughter at the hands of cold-blooded killers and government tyranny. The latter protection is why we have a Constitutionally protected right to keep and bear arms – no matter how heinously some abuse that right. I’m not saying we should simply put up with Holmes or any of the other killers amongst us. I’m saying we must not forget one danger to eliminate or punish the other.
More than that, I believe Holmes was insane. As did the government, which forced the killer to take psychiatric drugs in prison, ostensibly to protect fellow inmates, but practically to make him appear sane during videotaped testimony and in court. The school Holmes attended also knew he was seriously mentally ill. They referred his case to a special commission set up to identify and deal with dangerously mentally ill students, that put him on probation. Led by a psychiatrist who had intimate knowledge of his the dangers of his condition (who reported him as a lethal threat to the campus police).
I don’t expect anyone to sympathize with Holmes, who was hospitalized after attempting suicide several times while in jail in November 2012. I don’t. There’s no doubt that Holmes was sane enough to meticulously plan mass murder and carry it out. And in no way am I a psychiatric or legal expert. Nor can I refute the argument that even if Holmes was insane, so what? He is responsible for his actions. But then so are we.