James Holmes, the only suspect in the Aurora, Colorado killings that took place during a midnight premiere of The Dark Knight Rises, is expected to enter a plea of not guilty by reason of insanity today. The crux of the trial will depend on whether Holmes was capable of telling right from wrong when he dyed his hair orange, put on a bullet proof vest and a gas mask, and walked into the theater and killed 20 people and wounded 70 others. To that end, a judge had ruled that in order to try and evaluate Holmes' mental state, he can be given a "narcoanalytic interview" to try and determine if he was sane during the shootings. In other words, he'd be given "truth serum."
Truth serum is a potent combination of drugs that can lower inhibitions to the point where subjects apparently blurt out nothing but the truth. It's been used by the CIA for quite some time to interrogate informants. While studies have shown that the drug works quite well, apparently no one can quite determine if these studies are what you might call scientific.
At any rate, when truth serum is used in criminal trials, whatever the subject (in this case, James Holmes) says has to be investigated and corroborated by further and independent evidence. But the idea of truth serum alarmed his defense attorneys enough that they immediately filed to stop this.
I can't say I blame them. For one, if the truth serum is effective and he blurts out the wrong thing, he's in trouble. For two, if it was me, I wouldn't trust that whatever I was blurting out was necessarily the real truth -- it could just be the "truth" as my drugged up mind perceives it.
I also think a world class liar can lie no matter the circumstances -- maybe because they actually believe their own lies. Holmes could genuinely believe it wasn't wrong to kill all of those people, yet at the same time he could know that society would think it was wrong and he shouldn't do it or he'd be put in prison -- hence all of his efforts to plan it out secretly and to booby trap his apartment with bombs to keep the police occupied. On the other hand, he could know all that, but still think he was doing some kind of good deed by killing. Who knows what the hell he was thinking.
As for the truth serum, that would be a nice party favor to have around the house, wouldn't it?
Do you think truth serum gets to the truth of things?
Editor's Note: Holmes' lawyers said they are not ready yet to enter a plea, so a default plea of "Not Guilty" has been entered by the judge. Them lawyers be experts at stallin'!
Image via Arapahoe County Sheriff's Office