WEEI>On Demand>>Jack Levin: Colorado killer suffers from an acute mental illness

Jack Levin: Colorado killer suffers from an acute mental illness

Jul 23, 2012|

Northeastern Sociology and Criminology Professor and author Jack Levin joins John and Dale to talk about the horrible tragedy in Colorado this past week. Levin shares his opinion about how the killer does not fit the typical profile, what may have caused the killer to do this, if an insanity defense is likely to succeed, and why this is such a unique circumstance.

Transcript - will not be 100% accurate

Doctor Jack Levin is a a professor of sociology and criminology at Northeastern University here in Boston is considered a and forty. On serial killers mass murders and hate crimes. Doctor -- this coauthored the author or coauthor 28 books including mass murder. America's growing menace he joins us on the AT&T hotline good morning doctor Levin how laureate John -- in Boston good morning morning Jack is -- -- as an overview -- it to jump off here's lieutenant delve into this or Colorado story generally speaking is Eric collective option 888 connective thread. That links people who perpetuate crimes like this together. There is a profile. The problem is that. This killer doesn't fitted very well. Now most masked killers. Have offered some. Catastrophic loss like the loss of the job -- Lots of money in the stock market -- more -- the separation or divorce child custody battle gone bad. And and he has also mean that I really believe that it's getting -- out of that. Ph.D. program in June at the university Colorado was his catastrophic loss in it may have been the precipitous. But there's a lot more going on here than just. You know the leaving a Ph.D. program there are other graduate students who have opened fire. After being kicked out of the program. But you know would they go after they go after professors in the dean. At this guy why did this guy. Instead. Go into a public place where he knew there would be large numbers of potential victims. You know this happens very rarely there may be a few cases like this. In the United States every year most of the time the killer as. Specific target. This guy was against apparently against all of humanity and I think that one of the reasons he decided to go to this premier. Showing. Of the Batman and film. Is because he wanted. The drama. He wanted to. The publicity. I think he wants like so many about of these other killers they go down in infamy. In you know he really got what he wanted because I'll tell you what. I've gotten calls from newspapers. Around the world interest in this case -- film France Switzerland Canada. Unbelievable. And I think part of the reason has to do. With a dramatic way that this happened. He compared himself I believe to the police as the Joker obviously a character in the film so is there are some sort of delusional a correlation there that. He thinks he's actually that guy the bad guy in the movie. Right you know -- -- good thing that most mass killers do not suffer from serious mental illness. They don't generally have a criminal record or a psychiatric history but I think this. Killer is different in that regard my guess is that he was schizophrenic and you know most mass killers are in their thirties forties and fifties. He was 24. Ted Kaczynski who was as schizophrenic. The unabomber. Who stayed on the loose for seventeen years planning letter bombs. Who became schizophrenic or at least develop the symptoms. When he was an undergraduate at Harvard and a woman -- -- years ago killed three people in. Parking lot of a shopping mall in Springfield Pennsylvania. It turned out that she was schizophrenic she was 25 you insult. So I you know I do think there was a Google -- new delusional aspect it back. -- at this killer may have thought that he was the Joker. And -- he was obsessed with Batman and they found that -- Paraphernalia. In his apartment. You know he was obsessed with super heroes generally any may have thought seen himself. In that regard it's a very powerful. Figure and that may be part of it. Jack when you look at successful. Insanity plea defenses are what's a common thread what is something that that. That ties them together. You know what there is an -- because there's so few successful cases -- you know the jury won't buy it. No matter what the premise even if it is that. You know that the that the killer since he's -- may have heard the Joker or superhero. It is it is that's irrelevant to the jury. First of all especially when they when the crime has been premeditated. Well planned and look let's -- -- This killer premeditated this crime. Methodically and over a long period of time it was a very. Complex crime. And the you know the second thing is that the jury wants to hold somebody responsible. In this case twelve people are dead will. You know they that the jury will think he's gonna get off. If peace shall not guilty by reason of insanity. Only about 1%. Of all felony defendants even attempt the insanity defense. And only about 13 of them are successful it almost never works and yet you know if the defense. Of last resort what else does he commitment. We're talk to a doctor Jack Levin professor of sociology and criminology at northeastern university and an and conduct eleventh. Does the fact that James Holmes the killer the alleged killer. Sat in his car and waited for the -- come and get him and didn't resist arrest tell us anything about it like yet he wants to tell them not more distort or something like that. You know most of these mass killers. Intent to kill themselves but first they're gonna get even with everybody responsible for their misery. Again. Holmes is different in that regard because he came to the cinema wearing body armor. He's certainly did not. One could die he wanted to live. He dropped his weapon he did. Struggle with the police at all. He wanted to live and could tell his story but I think again it indicates to me. That he does suffer from a profound mental illness most of these guys don't. Most of their -- pathology. Is situation all you know. Some terrible things has happened to them. Immediately before they decided take a lot of lives I don't think that's true in this case I think he carry that around with them. That you may have been just fine at least the most person. For five years ago but I think he they would that we get into his psychiatric. History we're gonna find that he was really hit it delusional psychotic guy. Whatever his psychosis was schizophrenia or anything else does that help explain why he booby trapped his apartment to the extent he did. And then told the police when they arrested him hey guess what my apartment is booby trapped. -- you know it does explain it I -- somebody who's schizophrenic very confused right. And otherwise how do you explain something like that -- that much trouble until police officers and then to warm them. -- -- you know it makes no sense. Except psychologically. And that's why again I usually -- the person says. Mental illness is not involved here not serious mental illness certainly these guys are not. Cycle and the they're often not psychotic. States suffered greatly and this situation. That precipitate. The -- but in this case I really think he carried around with them my guess is that. It also explains why she's young for mass killer it's schizophrenia develops that it is -- now when you're. Generally speaking not when you're thirty or forty or fifty. -- I I I look at the case in Norway a year ago a young man went out on the island and shot all those people -- I -- at this case and I say to myself normal thinking people like you mean -- on. We say it will of course he's not known normal person does that sort of thing but it's a harder thing to prove in a legal point of view. It is and also I don't think that most mass killers or not. I think he's the more randomly killing. The more indiscriminate. In public play in a public place. The more likely it is that the killer. Suffers from psychosis that it is in the same in both the legal and -- psychiatric sense. There are very few of those cases. Maybe five or six a year in the United States but the overwhelming. Majority of mass killings or in the family. The work place. Or the school. Where the killer has particular. That individuals setting targets you know it's bought them a coworker or his wife in the children or his classmates. This is such an unusual case and that's why I think people ought to keep this in perspective. You know they're gonna be some people are gonna be scared to go. 22 with the same amount. But the truth is. That these are very rare cases. And the probability is much greater that we that you would be a victim of violence. From somebody you. From. I gang member who has small caliber handgun. And decides to get even with somebody because he was this respected. You know what those kinds of everyday single victim homicides 151000. Album a year. That really rolled the quality of our life. Doctor -- a question for me -- and I don't mean it's the sound flip but does every single mass murder in criminal of this type. Always get the same description from neighbors or relatives he was a standoffish boy he was he's quiet he always kept to himself. -- gregarious outgoing mass murderers. Well I I think it's true that. Most -- killers are socially isolated they have no place to term when they get into trouble and that's part of the profile and yet I think you're on that something. You know. When people artwork when somebody knocks on the door it's a reporter and there are asked about a guy who kills that killed twelve people. They've got to want -- distance themselves all he's stuck to himself he was a quiet guy you'll hardly knew right right so I think you're onto something there. Doctor -- always a pleasure talking to you thanks for the time this morning to you doctor Jack Levin Northeastern University -- -- -- 6177790850. 8 o'clock hour Dan Wetzel from Yahoo!.

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