By Trevor Hughes and Gary Strauss
Mass shooting suspect James Holmes will use an insanity defense in his upcoming murder trial for the July 2012 deaths of 12 suburban Denver theatergoers.
Attorneys for Holmes, 25, entered an insanity plea Tuesday morning after unsuccessfully attempting to have the state’s laws on insanity pleas declared unconstitutional. Holmes, also charged with wounding or injuring 70, is scheduled to stand trial in February, 2014.
But by pleading not guilty by reason of insanity, the trial could be delayed by months as Holmes’ mental competency is evaluated by state doctors.
Prosecutors presented seemingly overwhelming evidence at a January preliminary hearing showing Holmes – a University of Colorado doctoral program dropout – had meticulously planned the assault on the Aurora movie theater, acquiring an assault rifle, shotgun, handguns, over 6,000 rounds of ammunition bomb-making materials and surveying the exterior of the theater complex in the weeks before the post-midnight shooting.
Holmes’ attorneys had argued repeatedly that their client suffers from a mental disorder. In February, they argued that Colorado laws covering insanity please could hamper their case because they restrict his defense. Judge Carlos Samour Jr. rejected those arguments last week.
Samour had earlier ruled that Holmes could change his not guilty to not guilty by reason of insanity. Prosecutors are seeking the death penalty, and an insanity defense is Holmes’ best possible hope of avoiding capital punishment.
Tuesday’s hearing was expected to last hours, as Samour pondered over more than 30 legal motions submitted by Holmes’ lawyers, ranging from requests to hold evidence in the case to jury sequestration.