Lawyers for Colorado theater gunman oppose videotaping sanity exam

Reuters News
Posted: Jul 12, 2014 12:10 AM

By Keith Coffman

DENVER (Reuters) - Attorneys for an accused mass murderer who claims he was insane when he shot 12 moviegoers to death at a Colorado cinema two years ago oppose the videotaping of their client as he undergoes a new psychiatric examination, court records show.

Lawyers defending James Holmes argued in a motion filed on Friday that they were not notified that the latest sanity exam sessions would be recorded and insisted the taping could violate his constitutional right against self-incrimination.

Holmes, 26, is charged with multiple counts of first-degree murder and attempted murder for opening fire inside a suburban Denver movie theater during a midnight showing of the Batman film “The Dark Knight Rises” in July 2012.

The shooting rampage killed 12 people and left dozens of others wounded, and prosecutors said they will seek the death penalty for the Southern California native if he is convicted.

Defense lawyers have conceded that Holmes, who has pleaded not guilty by reason of insanity, committed the shootings, but they say he suffers from a chronic mental illness and was experiencing a psychotic episode at the time of the massacre.

In Friday’s motion, public defenders argued that Holmes was not informed that as a consequence of an insanity plea he could be subjected to a videotaped examination, and there is no provision in Colorado law for the procedure.

Additionally, they argued, the presence of a camera could affect the “integrity” of the psychiatric testing because it will record Holmes’ demeanor, expressions and body language.

“These nonverbal communications are testimonial acts, as they have the potential to give rise to incriminating inferences,” the motion said.

Prosecutors have not formally responded to the motion, but Arapahoe County District Court Judge Carlos Samour ordered a hold placed on the examination until a hearing on the issue is held sometime next week.

Legal maneuvering over sanity examinations has prompted Samour to twice postpone the murder trial for the onetime neuroscience graduate student.

After invoking the insanity defense, Holmes underwent a court-mandated mental evaluation last year, but the results of that first exam have not been made public. 

In February Samour ordered a second examination, siding with prosecutors who argued the first one was “incomplete and inadequate.”

Earlier this week, the state hospital overseeing Holmes’ latest exam wrote to the judge, saying the second round of testing could not be completed in time for jury selection to begin as scheduled in October, prompting Samour to postpone the trial again. No new trial date has been set.

(Reporting by Keith Coffman in Denver; Editing by Steve Gorman and Michael Perry)