On July 20, 2012 in Aurora, Colorado, James Holmes entered a midnight premiere of The Dark Knight Rises with a tactical shotgun, a high-capacity assault rifle, and a sidearm. He threw a canister of tear gas into the crowd and began firing. Soon twelve were dead and fifty-eight were wounded; young children and pregnant women were among them. Unlike most mass shooters, who commit suicide or provoke a deadly shootout with responding police officers, Holmes was found calmly waiting at his car and was arrested without any resistance.
In the court case that followed, only Dr. William H. Reid would be allowed to record interviews with the defendant. Reid would read Holmes’ diary, investigate his phone calls and text messages, interview his family and acquaintances, speak to his victims, and review tens of thousands of pages of evidence and court testimony in an attempt to understand how a happy, seemingly normal child could become a killer.
On this episode of The Forensic Psychiatrist, we not only have a chance to get an inside look at the mind of a mass murderer, we get to see what it’s like to be a forensic psychiatrist in action.
William Reid, MD, MPH, is among the most experienced forensic mental health professionals in North America. He has received both the Manfred Guttmacher Award for forensic writing and the Seymour Pollack Award for Distinguished Contribution to Education in Forensic Psychiatry, and is a past president of the American Academy of Psychiatry and the Law. Dr. Reid has written, co-authored, or edited 16 professional volumes and over 200 professional articles and book chapters, many on antisocial behavior, terrorism and forensic practice. Dr. Reid was one of two psychiatric experts retained by the presiding judge in People of the State of Colorado v. James Holmes, and the only psychiatrist allowed to record interviews with Holmes and access the unredacted videos and transcripts.