Click HERE to watch this week’s CrimeLine, where Jon Leiberman and I discuss the latest on the Aurora shooting suspect, as well as the NCAA ruling for Penn State and the start of the Drew Peterson trial. Just a note, as I cover the tragic Aurora massacre, I will not be using the suspected shooter’s name out of respect for the victims. The brother of victim Jessica Ghawi says he wants to keep focus on the victims and not the shooter, so I stand with him in refusing to utter the shooter’s name.
That being said, the key issues in trying the shooter are going to be whether the death penalty will be applied in this case and whether he can plead insanity. I think this case will play out similar to the case of Oklahoma City bomber Timothy McVeigh in two respects. One, the McVeigh case could have been tried in a federal court since his murders were considered a federal offense because they took place in a federal building. The reason he was tried instead in a state court is because there is no federal death penalty, but Oklahoma has the death penalty and they were able to convict him in state court and later execute him. Similarly, the Aurora shooter’s case could be tried in a federal court since he shot and killed two active service members, one in the navy and another in the air force, making it a federal offense. Yet, Colorado is also a death penalty state and I do believe the state will pursue the death penalty in this case.
The other issue is, like in Timothy McVeigh’s case, I don’t believe he will be able to plead insanity. The insanity defense won’t work, reason being that this shooter meticulously planned every aspect of his massacre. He spent months ordering the guns, the ammunition and planning the booby traps in his apartment. The fact that he so carefully planned this attack makes it incredibly difficult to prove he did not understand what he was doing or that it was illegal, which is what would be needed for an insanity defense.
The next step in the case is to have psychiatrists test him to see if he is mentally fit to stand trial. In the case of Jared Lee Loughner, the Tuscon shooter, he was declared mentally unfit to stand trial. A defendant must understand the significance of their crime in order to stand trial, and while psychiatrists deemed Loughner mentally unfit, I’m not sure they’ll find the same with the Aurora shooter given his meticulous planning of the attack. He had to have understood the significance of the crime he committed.
For more on our take on the Aurora shooter’s case, as well as Drew Peterson and Penn State, watch this week’s CrimeLine by clicking on the link above. The CrimeLine airs every Tuesday at 4:30 EST on Spreecast.