12 Lifetimes and 3,318 Years Is Not Enough

August 27, 2015 § 8 Comments


The headline Colorado Movie Gunman Sentenced to 12 Lifetimes and 3,318 Years should tell us a lot about our own God-given sense of justice. It clearly extends far beyond this lifetime. James Holmes murdered 12 people and wounded another 70 when he opened fire in a movie theater in 2012. The jury couldn’t unanimously agree over the death penalty, so Holmes got the maximum life sentence. Logically, one lifetime would be enough to keep him behind bars for eternity, but our sense of eternity (Ecc. 3:11) and justice (Job 37:23) seems to surpass the limits of this world. Our dissatisfaction with human justice is a reflection of the court of the divine. We are made in the image of a God who is by nature the essence of justice, and that we would intuitively recognize grave injustice and seek to satisfy it by such extremes demonstrates this very truth. We know there must be more to it.

[Related post: Plus Infinity]

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§ 8 Responses to 12 Lifetimes and 3,318 Years Is Not Enough

  • Hi Mike,

    I struggle with the killer’s moral culpability. By all accounts, he was and is severely mentally ill. In general, I’m skeptical of cases where someone pleads not guilty by reason of insanity, but it seems to me that in this case the killer was insane. If so, he deserves treatment, not punishment.

    • Hi Jeffery, thanks for the comment. I’m skeptical in those cases too. I think all wrongdoing is irrational, and if a particular degree of irrationality qualifies someone as mentally ill/morally inculpable, it would be hard to pin down where that line is, where one ceases to grasp the difference between right and wrong or control his actions. I don’t think that point is often reached, but it’s a tempting appeal for a defendant’s lawyer. None of us think perfectly, and most probably have at least some mild or borderline type of something like anxiety, depression, ADD, etc., all of which influence thinking. On the other hand, if wrongdoing is irrational, do particularly heinous crimes mean that all heinous criminals are insane enough to be excused from moral responsibility for their actions?

      • Just to be clear, I’m not suggesting that the killer was insane because of his crimes. Rather, I’m saying there is uncontested evidence of his severe mental illness existing prior to the crime. In other words, this isn’t an ad hoc, desparate, ‘hail mary’ attempt by a defense attorney to protect one’s client. To use the technical term, it seems pretty clear the killer is a “wacko” in a way someone suffering from anxiety, depression, ADD, etc. is not.

        • Right, this was no ADD case. I just wonder where most would agree the degree of irrationality would have to reach to be considered clinically “wacko” and if moral responsibility is truly gone at that point. I’m glad not to have to make that determination.

          • As a general point, I agree with you.

            In this specific instance, I do not understand why anyone thinks this individual was morally responsible for his actions.

          • I’m guessing it was mainly the testimony of the psychiatrist (Metzner) who interviewed Holmes, who called him delusional but sane. He evidently knew right from wrong in his activities and contemplated the morality of his actions leading up to the shooting: 1) He researched police response times and wore body armor, anticipating resistance; 2) Told a friend not to contact him anticipating media scrutiny of his associates; 3) Bought ammo in separate shipments to avoid suspicion; 4) listened to loud music, by Holmes own testimony, to emotionally disconnect himself from his victims; 5) Sent journals of his feelings to a therapist to help with studies about people like him to prevent future violence. I think it was clear Holmes knew many other rights and wrongs in planning the shooting, so they concluded his moral culpability.

          • I didn’t know any of that. That changes things.

          • Assuming it’s accurate. I read most of that here: http://m.huffpost.com/us/entry/7539598

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