Aurora theater shooting suspect James Holmes' attorneys tender not guilty by reason of insanity plea

12 killed, 70 injured in shooting

ARAPAHOE COUNTY, Colo. - Attorneys for Aurora theater shooting suspect James Holmes made a formal request to change his plea to not guilty by reason of insanity on Monday. The judge must rule on several objections to the repercussions of that plea before ruling on the plea itself.

Judge Carlos A. Samour, Jr. said that allowing the plea change "would be consistent with fairness and justice."

If accepted, it will be the first official plea from Holmes' attorneys. A previous judge entered what he called a "standard not guilty" plea in March, after Holmes' attorneys said they were "not ethically prepared" to enter a plea.

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

However, the attorneys did not reveal the diagnosis and the judge didn't ask. Holmes did not speak at the hearing.

"His mental illness hasn't changed," King said. "No mental health expert is going to render an opinion without all of the information. I think it's remarkable progress, given the complexity of this case."

Prosecutors said they surveyed some of the victims and the victim's families about the change of plea -- Nineteen of the victims objected, six had no objections and three had no position.

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 moviegoers dead and injured 70 people.

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 with psychiatrists and other personnel conducting any examination ordered by the court and that he could be medicated for those medical exams.

The not guilty by reason of insanity plea also means Holmes waives any claim of confidentiality or privilege with physicians or psychologists. That means any confessions, admissions, medical history and social history may be used to question Holmes.

Holmes may also face a polygraph exam.

Defense attorneys have objected to some of those rules.

The judge said before he accepts the change of plea, prosecutors will be allowed to respond to the defense objections. The defense will also be allowed to respond in writing to the prosecutors.

The judge's decision is due on May 28.

Three days later, 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 would be entered.

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."

 

-- Discussion of Fairness --

The remainder of Monday's hearing was used to discuss a defense motion requesting a blanket of heightened standards of fairness in the case.

"We realize we haven't asked for anything specific at this point, except acknowledgement that it applies," an attorney for the defense said.

Holmes' lawyers repeated many of their written arguments asserting that prior case law supported their request, but the prosecution countered that those examples were either inapplicable to these circumstances or applied exclusively to the sentencing phase if Holmes is found guilty.

The prosecution argued that if the defense should want heightened standards of fairness as another specific point, they should request it when the situation arises.

 

-- A complete timeline of the case for mobile devices: http://ch7ne.ws/14ubM9u