Judge in Colorado cinema massacre case allows sanity exam video at trial

Reuters News
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Posted: Nov 03, 2014 7:15 PM

By Keith Coffman

DENVER (Reuters) - A judge overseeing the Colorado theater massacre case will let jurors in the upcoming murder trial of James Holmes see a video of the accused gunman's sanity examination, court documents showed on Monday.

Holmes has pleaded not guilty by reason of insanity to shooting dead 12 moviegoers and wounding dozens more inside a suburban Denver cinema during a midnight screening of the Batman movie "The Dark Knight Rises" in July 2012.

Prosecutors have charged the Southern California native with multiple counts of first-degree murder and attempted murder, and say they will seek the death penalty for the onetime neuroscience doctoral candidate if he is convicted.

Defense lawyers have said the 26-year-old was in the throes of a psychotic episode when he went on the rampage.

Holmes underwent a sanity examination last year, but Arapahoe County District Court Judge Carlos Samour ordered a second evaluation, agreeing with prosecutors who argued the first one was flawed.

The results of neither examination have been made public, but it is widely believed by legal observers that the two evaluations came to differing conclusions about Holmes' sanity.

Last week, public defenders filed motions seeking to prevent jurors from seeing a video of the latest sanity examination, as well as statements Holmes made during the testing, arguing that it violates his right against self-incrimination.

Samour denied the challenges on Monday, noting that a defendant gives up certain rights when invoking an insanity defense, and that he had already rejected similar motions raised by the defense after the first sanity examination.

"Even after the Court ordered the second sanity examination, the defendant was free to avoid it by changing his not guilty by reason of insanity plea to a not guilty plea," Samour said. "He decided, instead, to stand by his insanity plea."

Jury selection is set to begin in January, and the judge told lawyers for both sides to make their opening statements on June 3.

(Reporting by Keith Coffman; Editing by Daniel Wallis and Eric Beech)