Theater Shooting Trial Puts Mental Health in Spotlight

22June
2015

Almost 3 years ago, James Holmes, now 27, opened fire on a theater full of people during the midnight showing of “The Dark Knight Rises” in Aurora, Colorado. 12 people were killed in the shooting, and 70 people were injured. Holmes does not deny the crime, but has pleaded not guilty by reason of insanity. If he is found guilty by the jury, he could face the death penalty. If the jury determines that he was insane at the time of the crime, then he would instead be sent to a state psychiatric hospital.

The defense showed jurors a video taken in jail a few months after the shooting of Holmes experiencing what they called “a psychotic break.” The video showed Holmes standing on his bunk bed, and dropping backward onto his back and head. The defense argued that Holmes’ actions demonstrate his mental illness. Holmes had to be hospitalized as a result of these actions, and was treated with anti-psychotic medications and anti-depressant medications. However, during cross-examination, one of the jail nurses who dealt with Holmes testified that Holmes acted like “any other inmate” and his behavior was “nothing out of the ordinary,” other than the bed falling episode.

The expert witness presented by the defense, however, did not agree with the nurse. Dr. Jonathan Woodcock, who performed a mental evaluation of Holmes following his arrest, claims that Holmes was experiencing severe psychotic mental illness, and that Holmes was experiencing a “considerable disruption in his ability to understand reality.” The prosecution has called 2 court-appointed psychiatrists to the stand, both of whom claimed that Holmes was sane when he committed the crime, but that he does suffer from mental illness.

This case is taking place in Colorado, but here in Arizona, a person cannot plead not guilty by reason of insanity. Here, we have guilty except insane. Mental health defense cases are very rare—only about 1% of cases will involve an insanity defense. It will be interesting to see how this case unfolds.

Read the original article here.

Posted in Mental Health Defenses, Violent Crime |

Violent Kids Stress Loving Families

8June
2015

Here in Arizona, there are not many places to turn if you have a violent child. Whether the violence is caused by mental illness, developmental disabilities, autism, brain injuries, or a combination of these factors, the task of helping these children is generally passed around from one person or organization to the next. With no place to turn, many Arizona families make the difficult decision to send their child across the country to a quality facility that they hope can help their child.

Arizona is significantly lacking in resources when it comes to treating violent children. There are no longer any full-fledged psychiatric institutions for children in the state. The Arizona State Hospital used to have a juvenile division, but not anymore. Many families turn to the court system, hoping that a judge will order that the child be placed in treatment and that the state will pay for it. Residential treatment in an institution is astronomically expensive, often costing between $150,000 and $200,000 per year, plus the costs of getting the child there. In 2013 alone, 127 kids were placed in out-of-state facilities, according to the Arizona Department of Health Services. And that doesn’t even include the kids who were court-ordered to leave the state and receive treatment.

It’s unfortunate that there aren’t more treatment options closer to home. Without help, violent children don’t just “outgrow” violent behaviors; instead, these individuals often find themselves caught up in the justice system with, again, nowhere to turn for help.

But there is hope. Bryan Davey, president of Highland Behavioral in Phoenix, is working to start a center dedicated to helping the kids who need it the most. He’s putting together a team of psychologists, psychiatrists, board-certified behavior analysts, and pediatricians to help children living with autism, developmental disabilities, or brain injuries. Davey hopes to have the center open later this year.

Read the original article here.

Posted in Mental Health Defenses, Violent Crime |