New trial date expected for Colorado movie theater gunman

Reuters News
Posted: Feb 27, 2014 10:03 AM

By Keith Coffman

DENVER (Reuters) - A judge was expected to set a new trial date on Thursday for James Holmes, the former neuroscience graduate student who says he was insane when he killed 12 moviegoers in a shooting spree at a Colorado cinema in 2012.

Arapahoe County District Court Judge Carlos Samour ordered the hearing last week after ruling that Holmes must submit to a second sanity evaluation because the first examination was "incomplete and inadequate."

Lengthy legal proceedings surrounding that issue have delayed the murder trial, which was initially scheduled to get underway this month.

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."

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.

The one-time University of Colorado doctoral candidate in neuroscience has pleaded not guilty by reason of insanity.

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.

At Thursday's proceeding, it is anticipated Samour will also set hearing dates on a series of death-penalty motions filed by the defense.

(Reporting by Keith Coffman; Editing by Steve Gorman and Janet Lawrence)