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Accused Aurora theater shooter requests plea change

Pool via Reuters, file

Accused Aurora theater shooting suspect James Holmes listens at his arraignment in Centennial, Colo., in March.

Lawyers for James Holmes, the man accused of shooting 12 people to death during a screening of a Batman movie in Colorado last summer, requested Monday to change their client’s plea to not guilty by reason of insanity.

Judge Carlos Samour said that Holmes’ defense team demonstrated “good cause” for the change, but added that he would not rule on making the adjustment official until a later date.

A Colorado circuit court judge had previously entered a standard not guilty plea on Holmes’ behalf after the defense said they were not prepared to make a decision. Holmes’ lawyers said in a court filing last week that they intended to mount an insanity defense.

Holmes appeared in court Monday with a thick, brown beard. He sat wordlessly and stared straight ahead as his attorney, Daniel King, told the judge that the defense has a mental illness diagnosis for the 25-year-old former medical student at University of Colorado-Denver.

“We now have an opinion from professionals,” King said, but he did not provide details.

Prosecutors said last month that they would seek the death penalty. District Attorney George Brauchler wrote that Holmes and his defense team both knew he was guilty and "both of them know that he was not criminally insane."

"It's my determination and my intention that in this case, for James Eagan Holmes, justice is death," Brauchler said at a hearing last month.

Besides the 12 gunned down, 58 people were wounded on July 20, 2012, at a midnight showing of the movie “The Dark Knight Rises” in the Denver suburb of Aurora. Holmes has been charged with 166 counts of murder, attempted murder, and other offenses in connection with the massacre.

Karl Gehring / The Denver Post

Twelve people were killed and 58 injured when a gunman opened fire during the premiere of a Batman movie.

Legal experts told The Denver Post that they expect Samour to allow the change, partly because denying it would raise the prospect of a lengthy appeal in the middle of the trial, which is scheduled to begin Feb. 3, 2014.

Another judge ruled in March that Holmes must agree to be drugged for a psychiatric exam at the Colorado State Mental Hospital if he wished to plead insanity.

Holmes would also be required to give up his right to remain silent and turn over the names, addresses and medical reports of any doctor or psychologist who has ever treated him for a psychiatric condition.

Judge Samour is expected to ask Holmes if he understands the conditions associated with his insanity plea at a hearing in late May.


Colorado shooting suspect wants to use insanity defense 

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