Pressed by a court-appointed psychiatrist to explain his reasons for killing 12 people at an Aurora, Colorado, movie theater, James Holmes described increasing his own value by "one unit" for each fatality.
"As a human being, they have this value, and I can take that value," Holmes said in a recorded interview that was played in court Monday.
For a second week, the trial of Holmes focused on recorded interviews with a court-appointed psychiatrist that took place in 2014, two years after the shooting massacre. Holmes has pleaded not guilty by reason of insanity to 12 counts of murder and 70 counts of attempted murder. William Reid, one of several psychiatrists expected to testify, has said he believes Holmes was legally sane at the time of the shooting.
In the recording played Monday, Holmes describes how after taking 12 lives, he is now worth 13. A normal person would be worth one, he explained.
"What does that feel like?" Reid asked.
"Just that I feel better than before," Holmes said.
On the witness stand Monday, Reid said Holmes' explanations could be interpreted as a belief of a person with little mental illness, or the delusion of a person who was more severely mentally ill. Either way, he said, Holmes was capable of understanding what he was doing.
"He did what was necessary to get the points," Reid said. "He was still aware that he was trading people's lives and injuries in order to feel better."
Reid added that it is common for severely mentally ill people to describe being controlled by an external force, which can be a factor in determining if they are capable of being held responsible for a crime.
"In this case, he continuously denied to me there was any external force — wasn’t God, wasn’t Satan, or an external power, it was him," Reid said.
Holmes also described how he began to see shadows while he was in graduate school. They would start with a flicker out of the corner of his eye, he said, then they would appear in the center of his vision, fighting each other with axes or guns.
At the same time, he said, he was becoming increasingly depressed.
"The shootings were supposed to increase my self-worth so that would get me out of the depression in the end," Holmes said.
Watch Monday's court proceedings here.
Claudia Koerner is a reporter for BuzzFeed News and is based in Los Angeles.
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