I recently appeared on Entertainment Tonight where I discussed the body language of the Colorado Shooter James Holmes. For those of you who may think he may have been faking his strange and contorted facial expressions, the answer is “no” . The reason I say this is because his behaviors were too consistent.
MEDS OR SLEEP DEPREVATION?
He struggled to keep his eyes open an to pay attention to what was going on, but he could not do so. He was either medicated or sleep deprived.
While it is not common to medicate someone during a court proceeding such as this because the person needs all of their faculties present to comprehend what is going on around them, it is not unheard of to medicate someone who is a danger to themselves and to others. If someone has been on medication, they will often let the person continue taking their prescribed meds. It was reported that Holmes was acting violent in his jail cell as he allegedly spit at guards. Perhaps he was medicated to avoid this type of behavior in the courtroom.
His actions could also be a sort of withdrawal reaction from alleged medications he may have been taking as well.
While he opened his eyes widely and often quickly nodded out. It showed that he was clearly struggling to stay awake.
There were times where he had an obvious reality check as his facial expressions leaked out fear , with the whites of his eyes showing all around. He also leaked out sadness. His sadness was depicted by his furrowed forehead, knitted brow, and his frowning down tuned mouth.
There were times where he appeared to stare into space while there were other times he stared downwards. His nodding out may have also been a coping mechanism to deal with the reality of his actions in not being able to face them.
My thoughts are that he may have very well had a psychotic episode which caused his horrific “lone wolf terrorist behavior.” Oftentimes such psychotic breaks can occur in a person’s 20’s.
It has been reported that James Holmes, who was adopted by his parents was a very shy child. It is also reported that his mother had some concern that he was an isolated child and didn’t have a lot of friends.
James managed to occupy his time with video games according to reports and with academics.
EARLY DREAMS TO BECOME A SCIENTIST
He excelled in science and wanted to become a neuroscientist. He even worked at the prestigious Salk Institute.
There is videotape of an 18 year old fresh faced dark haired young man discussing his future plans as a scientist. He was able to live out his dream by being accepted into the PhD Program at the University of Colorado in neuroscience.
Apparently, he took his first year oral exams and then abruptly dropped out. While the University isn’t revealing much due to student privacy issues, it has been suggested in the media that he di not pass his exams and or the program was going to terminate him so he quit instead.
Having received a PhD myself I can assure you that it is one of the most difficult things one can do. Besides the actual academic pressures and research requirements, and grueling oral and lengthy written examinations, there is often the departmental politics to contend with. Most students aren’t prepared for this, but it does exist.
While his PhD student status is pure speculation on my part at this point, it may be possible that James was able to cut through the program academically, but he may have fallen victim to departmental politics. Maybe professors noticed his odd behavior and reacted negatively and gave him a hard time. Maybe they just didn’t like him for whatever reason and looked for reasons out get him out of the program.
Whatever the case, James Holmes saw his lifelong dream of becoming a scientist some to an end. His entire identity was caught up in this now shattered dream, so he may have felt he had nothing to live for.
No doubt anger brewed inside of him as he lost his academic standing and his hopes for a promising career. His anger must have escalated when he found out that he would now have to vacate his apartment because the management did not rent to those who were not U of Colorado students.
Being an alleged isolate, James apparently did not have anyone with whom to vent his frustrations and anxieties. He obviously felt he had nothing to live for as his world was closing in on him, so he retreated into his Batman like fantasies of acting out his rage at his plight though the persona of The Joker. Allegedly , after he was apprehended, he told police that he was The Joker.
He knew what he was going to do and set up an elaborate death trap in his apartment which would kill anyone who entered it- law enforcement or the apartment manager or the owner who was forcing him to vacate his dwelling.
After seeing the film the Dark Knight, it is clear where his ideas about the use of gas and gunning down innocent people came from. There is a chilling scene in the film where innocent people are shot at the Stock Exchange. It was reminiscent of what James Holmes did at the Colorado theatre.
MENTAL INSTITUTION , LIFE IN PRISON, OR DEATH?
James Holmes will undergo a battery of psychiatric evaluations to see if he is competent to stand trial. If not, he will most likely be spending a good portion of his life in a mental institution like John Hinkley or Mark David Chapman. If he is not found guilty by reason of insanity, then he will be spending the rest of his life in a prison cell or on death row.
No matter what happens, the horror of this story is that innocent lives of young people were taken for absolutely no reason at all.
WARNER BROTHERS DOING THE RIGHT THING
It is impressive that Warner Brothers said they will be donating a substantial amount to victims of the shooting and to their families. But even though this is the right thing to do, it still can never bring back these promising lives due to Holme’s horrific actions. Those who survived will also have to deal with a lifetime of post traumatic stress and all of it’s complex related symptoms and complications.