Judge accepts James Holmes' insanity plea, allows notebook to therapist to be admitted as evidence

Holmes' notebook to therapist allowed in trial

CENTENNIAL, Colo. - On Tuesday,  a district judge accepted James' Holmes plea of not guilty by reason of insanity in the Colorado theater shootings and agreed to allow the notebook Holmes sent to his therapist as evidence in the trial.

Prosecutors will get access to the notebook on June 10.

The judge is also considering some 90 motions filed by the defense, including a notice that they plan to request a change of venue.

Tuesday's decision on the insanity plea sets the stage for a lengthy mental evaluation of Holmes, who is accused of killing 12 people and injuring 70 in an attack during a midnight premiere of 'The Dark Knight Rises' on July 20, 2012.

The mental evaluation could take months. Holmes is charged with multiple counts of murder and attempted murder. Prosecutors are seeking the death penalty.

On Tuesday Arapahoe County District Judge Carlos A. Samour spent about 50 minutes explaining the changes to the formal advisement and the consequences of pleading not guilty by reason of insanity.

Holmes appeared in a red jumpsuit with his hair wet and slicked back. His beard was trimmed shorter, but still relatively bushy.

The document detailing the changes was placed in front of Holmes, who leaned forward to look while defense attorney Dan King flipped through the pages. Samour then instructed all cameras to be turned off and asked if Holmes had any questions.

Holmes answered with one word:  "No."

It was the second time he's spoken in court, and the second word he's said.

"I watched Mr. Holmes as he read the advisement. He appeared to be reading and following along," Judge Samour stated.

After the reading of the advisement, the prosecution asked for the plea to be explicitly and formally entered, prompting defense attorney Tamara Brady to stand and say, "Your honor, we are entering a plea of not guilty by reason of insanity."

Samour accepted the plea.

Brady said she spoke to an official at the state hospital in Pueblo and they are requesting one month for a clinician to review the evidence in the case before examining Holmes.  The clinician was not identified in court Tuesday.

The exam could include the use of a "truth serum" or a polygraph test. If Holmes doesn't comply with the tests and examinations, his attorneys would be prevented from calling mental health witnesses at his trial and at his sentencing, should he be found guilty.

Samour also revealed the reason pages had been removed from the final version of Holmes' advisement. Samour said the pages would have required signatures acknowledging understanding from Holmes and his attorneys, but the judge said such a form was neither required nor necessary.

"I infer that there is not a doubt in the defense attorneys' minds about Mr. Holmes' ability to understand the proceedings," Samour said.

An August 2 deadline was set for a report about Holmes mental health evaluations.

After the advisement, Samour listened to arguments about whether the notebook and package sent to Dr. Lynne Fenton should be considered evidence. In his ruling, Samour said it wasn't clear if the items were ever a privileged communication between patient and doctor, but either way should be considered evidence in this case.

Almost 90 motions filed by the defense, but not directly related to the advisement hearing, were released on Tuesday by the court. They include a notice of intent to request a change of venue and a motion challenging initial statements after his arrest.

It's also possible that Holmes' lawyers could ask the state Supreme Court to hear their arguments that state laws on the insanity plea and the death penalty are unconstitutional.

That could delay the case even longer, depending on whether the justices decide to consider the matter.

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