Blogs > Frye on the News

Keeping his eye on the news and offering commentaries and insights on what is happening in Oakland County, around the world, on the tube and in the news.

Tuesday, June 4, 2013

Insanity plea

Just because James Holmes, the Colorado theatre shooter, gets to plead not guilty by reason of insanity does not mean that he will be found not guilty. Of course, it is a possibility but there will be much debate and evidence before that happens, we hope.

However, the Associated Press tweet that the judge had accepted the plea, simply stating that fact, set off a firestorm of outrage, or Twitter-rage.

But now comes the trial. Every defendant gets to make a plea. In Michigan, it is almost always in felony cases initially a not guilty plea or standing mute, in which the judge then makes a plea of not guilty. It comes with the presumption of innocence. (Must note, though, that juries or judges do not find one innocent, but not guilty, if there's not enough evidence of guilt... unless the case is dismissed, meaning there's no evidence of guilt). And in this case, much has already been made of what his psychiatrist and school knew about his threatening behavior.

But the wording of the tweet made many think that he was found not guilty by reason of insanity. No, it was just his plea, which outlines his defense strategy. Now comes the trial or hearings. Of course, he could be found not guilty by reason of insanity. It happened a lot in big cases earlier, look at the killing John Lennon or shooting of Pres. Ronald Reagan.

Very unpopular these verdicts are, though clearly many defendants are insane. In Michigan, they get around this uncomfortable decision by giving juries the option of ruling in between, which they like to do, finding 'guilty but mentally ill,' which is the exact same thing as guilty except you're put near front of line for medications. It's a shame that judges and other elected leaders cannot withstand the outrage when the public's demand for vengeance is not met with the most harsh punishments.

The reaction to the AP tweet in its first minutes shows that outrage and distrust in the system. I don't know what level of crazy James Holmes had reached, and what he did means that he should not be allowed to intermingle with the rest of society anymore, just to share my guy reaction. But society has held that mental illness and insanity is different than the cold planned murders that get committed. One could argue that killing anyone requires a bit of craziness and any killer should forfeit his right to live in society.

But that's a whole big debate. Here I just wanted to share a bit about the power of a tweet and the need for people to have enough information to be properly outraged. The AP, smartly, did tweet an updated version with more detail that specifically noted, here comes the large debate over his sanity, apparently realizing how its first tweet had been interpreted.

Here is some of the very initial outrage on Twitter:

Nigel Duara ‏‪@nigelduara‬

herbie cockblock ‏@DeadHampton_ 5m

Amnesia  ‏@TrapBasquiat 27s
Must be nice being white.

Steffi S. Lee ‏@SteffiSLee 55s
What? Really?

Lot less closeouts ‏@lotless 1m

Apex Predator ‏@MolaLutherKing 1m
He got GREAT lawyers

Christine Seib ‏@seibways 2m
Holy crap

Parker ‏@lifeofagreat1 5m
Your kidding me

Shoulda been killed on the spot

KRenner ‏@KRenner2 5m
Huh? What about pre-meditated?

Julie Morales ‏@luvlabguidedogs 12m
Nooooo! I was hoping that wouldn't happen!

Teen Gohan ‏@Old_Simba_ 12m
Of course they did

Raine ‏@Phia34 14m
That's crazy!!

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