Arlene Holmes, the mother of convicted Colorado theater shooter James Holmes, testified on Wednesday that she and her husband were unaware that their son was having suicidal and homicidal thoughts, or that he was afflicted with a “serious mental illness,” before his July 20, 2012 rampage in which 12 people were killed and 70 others were injured.
“He has a serious mental illness,” she told the court. “He didn’t ask for that. Schizophrenia chose him. He didn’t choose it, and I still love my son.”
The jury in the trial has rejected the defense’s argument that he was not guilty by reason of insanity. Earlier this month, they found Holmes guilty of 165 counts of first degree murder and attempted murder.
In the sentencing phase, the jurors are weighing whether to impose the death penalty. The defense has been presenting testimony from family members and friends in an effort to spare him capital punishment. Holmes opened fire on a crowded theater at an Aurora, Colo. multiplex showing a midnight screening of “The Dark Knight Rises.”
In her testimony, Arlene Holmes described her son as a “good kid” who nevertheless seemed to become more introverted as he grew older, particularly after the family moved to San Diego when he was 12. At the time, the family sought counseling.
Arlene Holmes also described her son as someone who did well in school, did volunteer work as a child, and continued to do so when he went to UC Riverside.
On Tuesday, Holmes’ father Robert testified. His sister, Chris, testified earlier in the week.
The defense again showed home movies and photos, including holiday get-togethers and a camping trip.
As her husband testified, Arlene Holmes said that they worried that James was suffering from depression, particularly after a psychologist, Dr. Lynne Fenton, called them that June and told them that he was seeing her and that he had dropped out of graduate school. But Fenton, she said, did not say that he was having homicidal thoughts.
“We wouldn’t be sitting here if she had told me that,” Arlene Holmes said. “I would have been crawling on all fours to get to him.”
Fenton testified earlier that she called them because she was trying to determine if he was a danger to himself or others, but she also had concerns over her patient’s privacy.
A phone call from James to his parents on July 4, just weeks before his shooting rampage, was unusual because it lasted for about 30 minutes. He typically was not too talkative on the phone, Arlene Holmes said. It was then that she and her husband told their son that they planned to visit him that August.
Arlene Holmes said that she had visited her son in jail three times since the shooting rampage, and writes to him weekly.
“I want him to remember and I don’t want him to forget the past,” she said. “And hopefully he can carve out some kind of future in these circumstances.”
She said that she is concerned that he “may have declined in cognition in the prison environment.” She also said that his parents “want to reassure him that we are there for him if he has some need.”
James Holmes told the court that he would not be testifying in the penalty phase of the trial.