CENTENNIAL, Colo. (AP) — The father of Colorado theater gunman James Holmes said he never suspected his son was mentally ill before the 2012 attack, but he and his wife became increasingly concerned about him when he stopped returning their phone calls.
Robert Holmes said the call they did receive was from their son’s psychiatrist, about a month before the shooting. She told them James Holmes was dropping out of his prestigious neuroscience graduate school program.
“We didn’t know he was seeing a psychiatrist,” the father said Tuesday, testifying in an effort to persuade jurors to spare his son’s life. After the psychiatrist called, Robert Holmes said he entertained the possibility that his son might have Asperger’s syndrome.
He said his wife sought more information from the doctor, who didn’t call back.
Robert Holmes said when he and his wife visited their son after his arrest, he “was clearly messed up” — his eyes bulging and his pupils dilated.
“He told us he loved us, but I could see there was something really wrong with him,” Robert Holmes said.
Robert Holmes also recalled that during a visit with his son about seven months before the attack, he noticed James Holmes had an “odd facial expression,” which he would be reminded of later when he saw his son’s mug shot after his arrest.
He said he noticed his son smiling and grimacing in December 2011. Immediately after the testimony, the defense showed the now-familiar mug shot of James Holmes smirking at the camera.
Under questioning by prosecutor George Brauchler, Robert Holmes acknowledged his son didn’t share much information with his family about his life in Colorado. He also acknowledged James Holmes had a “distant” relationship with his sister, Chris Holmes, who testified on James Holmes’ behalf Monday.
Robert Holmes said he has seen James Holmes in jail only three times because his son typically does not allow visitors.
He said his son was an “excellent kid,” and he still loves him.
While Robert Holmes occasionally glanced at his son during his testimony, the two did not acknowledge each other until near the end of the day. Robert Holmes mouthed something at this son, who waved slightly at him. They both smiled.
Photographs and videos from the gunman’s childhood brought chuckles to some audience members but not to John Larimer’s family. Larimer, a sailor, was shot and killed in the attack while trying to protect his girlfriend, who sat on the victims’ side of the gallery.
Robert and Arlene Holmes have attended every day of their son’s 12-week trial, but the couple had not spoken publicly since prosecutors denied their request for a pretrial plea deal to spare his life.
Jurors found Holmes to be legally sane and eligible for the death penalty. But his defense is trying to show mental illness reduced his moral culpability, so much so that capital punishment would not due justice.
Death sentences must be unanimous, and the judge has explained to jurors that their decision will be highly personal.
The defense has a twofold task during this phase of Holmes’ sentencing: They must persuade at least one juror that Holmes was deeply mentally ill, even if legally sane; and they must show he deserves mercy.
On the first point, the defense brought back the same court-appointed psychiatrist who found Holmes was legally sane during the attack, this time to say it was severe mental illness that drove Holmes to kill.
“Having psychosis doesn’t take away your capacity to make choices. It may increase your capacity to make bad choices,” Dr. Jeffrey Metzner testified Monday. “He acted on his delusions, and that’s a reflection of the severity of his mental illness.”
On the second point, the defense showed images of James Holmes as a baby and a young boy, and introduced friends and family to show that even this killer was a good person once. They displayed family videos of him playing with neighbors and team pictures from afterschool soccer leagues.
Lori Bidwell recalled Tuesday how “Jimmy” helped celebrate Halloween with them each year in California. She said he was quiet, smart and good-humored.
The families went rafting together when James Holmes was 21, and Bidwell recalled how he laughed and watched sea otters.
“When I first heard it on the news, I called because I thought, ‘This can’t be possible,'” Bidwell said.
WASHINGTON (AP) — Secretary of State John Kerry warned skeptical lawmakers not to nix the contentious nuclear deal with Iran, insisting that it includes strict inspections and other safeguards to deter cheating by Tehran.
“If Congress does not support the deal, we would see this deal die — with no other options,” Kerry told the House Foreign Affairs Committee on Tuesday as he testified for the second time in a week, part of the Obama administration’s all-out campaign to sell the accord.
Kerry spoke as the administration picked up critical support for the deal from Rep. Sander Levin, D-Mich., a strong supporter of Israel who referred to his Jewish background in announcing his decision.
“I believe the agreement offers the best option to prevent Iran from acquiring a nuclear weapon,” Levin said in a statement circulated by Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., who is leading the effort to round up Democratic support for the deal in the House.
Congress has begun a 60-day review of the international agreement that curbs Iran’s nuclear program in exchange for billions of dollars in relief from sanctions stifling its economy. All members must weigh the deal, but it’s especially a tough decision for those who have a large number of Jewish constituencies because Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has called it a “historic mistake.”
“Iran has cheated on every agreement they’ve signed,” said Rep. Ed Royce, the panel’s chairman. With Kerry, Energy Secretary Ernest Moniz and Treasury Secretary Jack Lew waiting to testify, he asked if Tehran “has earned the right to be trusted” given its history.
Few, if any, new details emerged from the more than three-hour hearing. Some committee members asked the three officials questions, while others used their time to read lengthy statements in opposition. That left Kerry visibly frustrated and several times he accused the members of misconstruing or misunderstanding the details of the agreement.
“Nothing in this deal is built on trust. Nothing,” Kerry said.
Kerry was asked what would prevent Iran from adhering to the agreement for a short time, and then, in effect, take the money and run toward building an atomic bomb.
Kerry said that was not a likely scenario. He said the Iranian government is under pressure to improve the economy in their country where half the population is under 30 years of age and wants jobs. And he defended the inspection protocol under the agreement, arguing that if Iran tries to develop a nuclear weapon covertly, the international community will know.
“They can’t do that. Because the red flags that would go off — the bells and whistles that would start chiming — as a result of any movement away from what they have to do” to meet their obligations under the agreement, Kerry said.
Faced with Republican majorities in both houses, the administration’s objective was to line up enough support for Obama among Democrats in what is all but certain to become a veto fight this fall.
Congress is expected to vote in September to prevent Obama from lifting sanctions imposed previously by lawmakers, a step that would likely cause Iran to walk away from the agreement. Obama has said he will veto any bill along those lines, and Republicans will need a two-thirds majority in both houses to override his objections.
Apart from Royce, the panel’s senior Democrat expressed reservations about the plan. Rep. Eliot Engel of New York said he has “serious questions and concerns about this deal.”
Engel is a strong supporter of Israel, which vociferously opposes the agreement. Iran has said it wants to wipe out Israel.
The hearing unfolded as the American Israel Public Affairs Committee, a pro-Israel lobby, dispatched hundreds of its members to prod lawmakers to disapprove of the deal.
On the other side of the issue, seven former U.S. diplomats and State Department officials sent a letter Monday to leaders in Congress urging them to support the pact.
While lawmakers debated the implications of the deal, officials from member nations of the International Atomic Energy Agency told The Associated Press that Iran may be allowed to take soil samples at the Parchin military complex that is suspected as a site of nuclear weapon research, but only under monitoring by outside experts.
The officials said stringent oversight of the soil-sampling could include video monitoring. The samples would be analyzed by the agency for traces left by any nuclear experiments. The disclosures come from IAEA member nations and are tasked with following Iran’s nuclear program. They demanded anonymity because their information is confidential. The IAEA had no immediate comment.
Tehran insists Parchin is a conventional military area with no link to nuclear tests.
Associated Press writer George Jahn in Vienna contributed to this report.
This story deletes a quote that was incorrectly attributed to John Kerry.
WASHINGTON (AP) — In the sci-fi thriller “Ex Machina,” the wonders and dangers of artificial intelligence are embodied in a beautiful, cunning android named Ava. She puts her electronic smarts to work with frightening results, manipulating and outwitting her human handlers.
Just how far off in the future is a robot like the fictional Ava? And how worried should we be about warnings issued Tuesday that artificial intelligence could be used to build weapons with minds of their own?
Five things to know about artificial intelligence:
SCIENTISTS PREDICT WEAPONS ‘WITHIN YEARS’
Autonomous weapons that can search and destroy targets could be fielded quickly, according to an open letter released Tuesday and signed by hundreds of scientists and technology experts.
“If any major military power pushes ahead with (artificial intelligence) weapon development, a global arms race is virtually inevitable, and the endpoint of this technological trajectory is obvious: Autonomous weapons will become the Kalashnikovs of tomorrow,” said the letter, which references the Russian assault rifle in use around the world. “Unlike nuclear weapons, they require no costly or hard-to-obtain raw materials, so they will become ubiquitous and cheap for all significant military powers to mass-produce.”
AVA-LIKE ROBOTS A LONG WAY OFF
Robots with Ava’s sophistication are at least 25 years away and perhaps decades beyond that to realize, according to the experts. The gap between what’s possible today and what Hollywood puts on the movie screen is huge, said Oren Etzioni, chief executive officer of the Allen Institute for Artificial Intelligence in Seattle. “Our robots can’t even grip things today,” he said. “NASA still has to control spacecraft remotely.”
The most challenging aspect of an Ava-like robot is the hardware, said Toby Walsh, a professor of artificial intelligence at the University of New South Wales in Sydney, Australia, and at Australia’s Centre of Excellence for Information Communication Technologies.
“It might be 50 to 100 years to have this sort of hardware,” Walsh said. “But the software is likely less than 50 years away.”
Facial recognition technology that could be used to spot targets already performs better than humans do, said Bart Selman, a computer science professor at Cornell University in New York. That capability could be harnessed with the video taken by surveillance cameras to hunt people down autonomously. “That’s a bit scary,” Selman said.
Selman, Etzioni and Walsh signed Tuesday’s letter.
THE UPSIDE OF AI
Most artificial-intelligence researchers are focused on developing technologies that can benefit society, including tools that can make battlefields safer, prevent accidents and reduce medical errors. They’re calling for a “ban on offensive autonomous weapons beyond meaningful human control,” according to the letter. “The time for society to discuss this issue is right now,” Etzioni said. “It’s not tomorrow.”
U.S. LEADS, CHINA IN PURSUIT
The United States is the leader in the development of artificial intelligence for military and civilian applications. But China isn’t far behind, Selman said. “There’s no doubt they are investing in science and technology to catch up,” he said.
Any military that knows they might have to face these weapons is going to be working on them themselves, Walsh said. “If I was the Chinese, I would be working strongly on them. This is why we need a ban now to stop this arms race now.”
Officials at the Pentagon’s Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency weren’t immediately available for comment. But artificial-intelligence projects are being pursued to provide the U.S. military with “increasingly intelligent assistance,” according to an information paper on the agency’s website. One program is aimed at providing a software system that pulls information out of photos by allowing the user to ask specific questions that range from whether a person is on the terrorist watch list or where a building is located.
Follow Lardner on Twitter at http://twitter.com/rplardner
BALTIMORE (AP) — When a player hits a home run, there’s really only one overriding rule when running the bases: Touch ’em all.
Elier Levya of the Class A Delmarva Shorebirds failed to do so after hitting a clutch home run Sunday, and his mistake proved costly in a 5-4 loss.
Levya hit the ball over the wall in the ninth inning to apparently give visiting Delmarva a 5-4 lead over Augusta. But after Levya jumped into the air amid a celebration at home, he didn’t land on the plate.
Augusta noticed the error, and the umpire agreed. So Levya was credited with a triple and failed to score.
Delmarva is an affiliate of the Baltimore Orioles, and the major league team presented a video of the slip-up to its players before facing Atlanta on Monday night. Sure enough, Matt Wieters homered in the 11th inning, and manager Buck Showalter was sure to watch the entire jaunt around the bases.
“We showed it in the advance meeting as a reminder,” Showalter said Tuesday. “As Matt was running around the bases I was kind of glad I did.”
Showalter said the on-deck hitter should receive a part of the blame for Levya’s blunder.
“My first thought when I saw it was, you as an on-deck hitter are supposed to coach the runner at the plate,” Showalter said. “Touching the plate should be part of that.”
Showalter has managed thousands of games in the minors and in the major leagues, and couldn’t remember something similar happening. This much he does know: It won’t occur again for Delmarva anytime soon.
“It’s a great teaching point for our guys. Not only the guy who was guilty of it, but the on-deck hitter,” Showalter said. “I know our manager (Ryan Minor) there really well, so I know it won’t happen again. Use it as a teaching tool. You have to make mistakes to learn from them.”
Levya, a native of Cuba playing in his first professional season, received a lesson he won’t ever forget.
“I can take that one off the list for him,” Showalter said.
MIAMI (AP) — A man described by the FBI as an Islamic State sympathizer who hoped to mount attacks on U.S. soil was charged Tuesday with plotting to detonate a nail-filled backpack bomb on a Florida beach.
A criminal complaint unsealed Tuesday charges 23-year-old Harlem Suarez of Key West with attempting to use a weapon of mass destruction in the U.S. If convicted, he could face a maximum punishment of life in prison.
Authorities say Suarez came to the FBI’s attention through his Facebook posts praising the Islamic State group and containing extremist rhetoric.
In April, Suarez allegedly posted, “Be a warrior, learn how to cut your enemies head and then burn down the body learn how to be the new future of the world Caliphate” — a reference the Islamic State goal of building a regional fundamentalist entity.
The FBI says he later added a request “from any brother. How to make a bomb send me a video or something, what do I need to make it.”
Suarez made his first court appearance Tuesday in Miami and was being held without bail with a detention hearing set for next week. His temporary attorney, Richard Della Fera, said in an email that Suarez “may be a troubled and confused young man but he is certainly not a terrorist.”
“He comes from a very good, hard-working family that arrived here from Cuba in 2004 because they yearned for freedom. They raised their son to love this country,” Della Fera said.
Attempts to reach friends and family members via email and telephone were not immediately successful.
The complaint says Suarez told an FBI informant he wanted to make a timer bomb, bury it on a Key West beach and detonate it remotely. Suarez was arrested Monday after taking possession of an inert explosive device provided by an FBI informant. Suarez had given the informant some bomb supplies, including two boxes of galvanized nails, the backpack and a cellphone to be used as a detonator, according to the complaint.
“I can go to the beach at the night time, put the thing in the sand, cover it up, so the next day I just call and the thing is gonna, is gonna make, a real hard noise from nowhere,” Suarez told an FBI source in a recorded call, according to the complaint.
Suarez was being monitored for months by U.S. authorities and never made an actual explosive, and there was no indication in the FBI complaint that he had contact with any Islamic State militants overseas. Still, Miami’s FBI special agent in charge, George Piro, said the alleged threats had to be taken seriously.
“There is no room for failure when it comes to investigating the potential use of a weapon of mass destruction,” Piro said.
Among other things, the FBI says Suarez also sought to make an Islamic State recruitment video using a script he wrote himself. It eventually was made under FBI surveillance at a motel in Homestead, according to the complaint, with Suarez dressed in a black tactical vest, black shirt, mask and yellow-and-black scarf.
“American soil is the past, we will destroy America and divide it in two, we will rais(e) our black flag on top of your white house and any president on duty (cut head),” Suarez says in a script for the video.
The FBI says Suarez also ordered an AK-47 assault rifle on the Internet and intended to have it delivered to a Key West pawn shop. Although he could legally purchase the weapon, the FBI says, Suarez incorrectly filled out paperwork and it was returned to the seller.
Several dozen people have been charged in the U.S. with attempting to fight alongside the Islamic State and other militants or with lending them material support.
Follow Curt Anderson on Twitter: http://twitter.com/Miamicurt
TRENTON, N.J. (AP) — New Jersey plans to put body cameras on all state troopers who work in the field and is issuing guidelines on how local police forces statewide should use the devices.
Acting Attorney General John Hoffman, who outlined the plans Tuesday, also announced $2.5 million in state funding to help local police departments buy body cameras.
“The way to maintain mutual respect and trust between law enforcement and our communities is through accountability of police and civilians alike,” Hoffman said.
New Jersey is among the first states with plans to put body cameras on all state troopers. Their use already was brewing as a hot topic in law enforcement before a spate of high-profile shootings by police nationally during the past year, including the death last August of Michael Brown in Ferguson, Missouri.
Civil rights groups and police officials generally support using them, though there’s not universal agreement on what rules should be in place to balance the sometimes disparate interests of accountability and privacy.
“Whether body cameras are a good thing or a bad thing depends entirely on the policies behind them,” Chad Marlow, the American Civil Liberties Union’s advocacy and policy counsel, said in an interview Tuesday. He said it’s important that all footage neither be required to be made public in open records requests nor exempted wholesale from state records laws.
Hoffman said New Jersey’s rules strike the appropriate balance dealing with privacy, video retention and other issues. The NAACP and several other civil rights groups appeared with him as he unveiled the initiatives, though the ACLU was not among the groups.
The directive from Hoffman’s office generally requires officers with cameras to have them on during certain types of interactions with the public but limits their use in homes, schools, hospitals and places of worship.
Hoffman said the state would buy 1,000 cameras for troopers during the next year or so at a cost of $1.5 million. The money also would cover computer upgrades needed to use the cameras.
The $2.5 million to help pay for local departments’ cameras is to come from forfeiture funds.
About 30 law enforcement agencies in New Jersey are using cameras to some degree already. That number is expected to rise as a result of a 2014 law that requires that police cars have dashboard cameras or officers to have body-mounted cameras. Body cameras cost less and have more versatility.
Lawmakers in several states have been passing policies dealing with camera use.
A new South Carolina law requires all police officers to have them. Pending legislation in Connecticut and a policy in Alabama would put cameras on all troopers there.
Follow Mulvihill at http://www.twitter.com/geoffmulvihill