Judge sets October trial date for accused Colorado theater gunman Holmes

Reuters News
Posted: Feb 27, 2014 5:06 PM

By Keith Coffman

CENTENNIAL, Colo. (Reuters) - A Colorado judge on Thursday set a new trial date for October 14 for James Holmes, the former neuroscience graduate student accused of killing 12 moviegoers in a shooting spree at a Colorado cinema in 2012.

Arapahoe County District Court Judge Carlos Samour set the new timeframe after a previous February trial date was vacated amid ongoing legal wrangling over Holmes' sanity and other issues.

Holmes, 26, is charged with multiple counts of first-degree murder and attempted murder stemming from the July 2012 shooting spree during a screening of the Batman film "The Dark Knight Rises." He has pleaded not guilty by reason of insanity.

The shootings at a suburban Denver movie theater left 12 people dead and 70 others injured. Prosecutors have said they will seek the death penalty if they secure a conviction.

Last week, the judge ruled that the one-time University of Colorado doctoral candidate must submit to a second sanity evaluation because the first examination was "incomplete and inadequate."

Defense lawyers have conceded that Holmes, a California native, was the lone gunman, but have argued that their client was suffering a psychotic episode when he went on the rampage.

Holmes underwent a court-ordered psychiatric examination last summer. The results have mostly been kept confidential, but prosecutors sought a second evaluation because they said the first had "numerous deficiencies."

Samour agreed, but denied a request by government lawyers that they be allowed to select the new evaluator. An independent psychiatrist or forensic psychologist, who has yet to be appointed, must submit a report no later than July 11, the judge ruled.

The new exam is to focus on Holmes' state of mind at the time of the killings, not his competency to stand trial, and on whether any mental illness precludes him from facing the death penalty.

(This version of the story corrects the headline and second paragraph to remove reference to trial delay and clarifies prior trial date was already vacated.)

(Reporting by Keith Coffman; Additional writing by Sharon Bernstein; Editing by Steve Gorman, Janet Lawrence and Sofina Mirza-Reid)