James Holmes's attorneys offer not guilty by insanity plea, judge isn't ready to accept it
Late last month, a court document suggested that the attorneys representing accused Aurora theater shooter James Holmes wished to enter a not-guity-by-reason-of-insanity plea on his behalf.
At a hearing today, the defense team formally did so in the case, which involves the murder of twelve people and the wounding of seventy others at a midnight screening of The Dark Night Rises on July 20, 2012. However, Judge Carlos Samour has not yet accepted the plea. His decision will come at month's end.
Judge William Sylvester, who previously oversaw the case, entered a not guilty plea on Holmes's behalf this past March over the objections of his attorneys. As we've reported, Holmes's attorneys argued that they weren't ready to enter a plea because they still had questions about, among other things, how a mental evaluation of their client could be used against him in a death-penalty proceeding. At a hearing in March, defense attorney Daniel King said Holmes's representatives had retained experts who were working on his behalf and making progress, but hadn't yet completed their tasks.
There has also been confusion over the advisement that Holmes would receive should he be allowed to change his plea from "not guilty" to "not guilty by reason of insanity."
Judge Carlos Samour.
We've previously noted that the advisement explains the ramifications of such a plea, including that Holmes would be required to cooperate with a court-ordered mental examination. If he does not cooperate, the advisement states that he would not be allowed to call his own psychiatrists at trial to present mitigating evidence about his mental condition. Holmes's attorneys have repeatedly stated that the 25-year-old "suffers from a serious mental illness."
At today's hearing, prosecutors expressed displeasure that Holmes's team has not yet settled on a plea. "Our largest frustration is the amount of time it's taken to get to this point," stated one of the prosecutors, Jacob Edson.
However, Edson also acknowledged that there are close to 40,000 pages of discovery in the case. And while he stressed that it is up to Judge Samour whether or not he accepts the plea, he revealed the results of an informal poll in which victims were asked their views about a change of plea being allowed. Edson said nineteen victims objected to the judge accepting the change of plea, three victims had no position on the matter, and six victims did not object to the judge accepting a change of plea.
Continue for more about today's hearing in the Aurora theater shooting case.