Aurora movie theater shooting: Judge to rule on James Holmes' not guilty by reason of insanity plea

ARAPAHOE COUNTY, Colo. - The judge overseeing the Aurora theater shooting case is expected to rule Tuesday on whether suspect James Holmes can change his plea to not guilty by reason of insanity.

In March, Holmes' defense attorneys said they were "not ethically prepared" to enter a plea. The judge on the case at the time entered what he called a "standard not guilty" plea.

At a hearing earlier this month, Holmes' attorneys made a formal request to change his plea to not guilty by reason of insanity.

"We are now ready, and we haven't been ready previously," defense attorney Daniel King said in court about the change of plea request. "We have a diagnosis that is complete."

Judge Carlos A. Samour, Jr. said that allowing the plea change "would be consistent with fairness and justice." However, the judge decided to give the defense and prosecutors time to file briefs before he ruled.

In addition to decided whether Holmes can change his plea, the judge is also being asked to rule on several defense objections to the repercussions of that plea.

The original judge on the case, Judge William Blair Sylvester, said in court documents in March, that if Holmes pleaded not guilty by reason of insanity, he would undergo a sanity examination and would be required to cooperate and could be medicated. The judge also said that by pleading not guilty by reason of insanity that Holmes would waive any claim of confidentiality or privilege with physicians or psychologists -- meaning any confessions, admissions, medical history and social history could be used to question Holmes.

Defense attorneys have objected to some of those rules.

Holmes, a 25-year-old former University of Colorado graduate student in neuroscience, is charged with 166 counts in the July 20 massacre. The shooting, which occurred during a showing of the "The Dark Knight Rises," left 12 people dead and injured 70 others.

-- What's next?--

On Friday, Holmes and his lawyers will return to court to be advised of the repercussions of changing the plea. It would be at that time that the formal not guilty by reason of insanity plea may be entered.

Cameras will be allowed in to the courtroom for the entry of the plea, but they will not be allowed to record audio.

Samour has scheduled the Holmes trial for February 3, 2014. Prosecutors suggested the trial might take three months, the defense team said it would likely take nine months. The judge scheduled the trial for four months.

Prosecutors announced in April that they plan to seek the death penalty if Holmes is convicted. District Attorney George Brauchler announced, "It is my determination and intention that in this case for James Eagan Holmes, justice is death."

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