James Holmes's second sanity evaluation can be videotaped, judge rules
The psychiatrist tasked with evaluating Aurora theater shooting suspect James Holmes to determine if he was insane at the time of the crime will be allowed to videotape the examination, according to a recent ruling by Judge Carlos Samour (on view below).
Andy Cross/Denver Post James Holmes in court in June 2013.
Holmes's attorneys did not want the exam to be taped, arguing that it shouldn't be allowed because Holmes didn't know he would be taped when he pleaded not guilty by reason of insanity, which triggered the requirement that he undergo a court-ordered sanity evaluation. The attorneys also posited that videotaping was "likely to interfere with the integrity of the examination" and pointed to a study that suggested that recording evaluations affects the outcome -- though that study wasn't focused on sanity examinations.
But the psychiatrist tasked with conducting the examination testified in court last week that the positives of videotaping the evaluation outweigh any potential negatives. Videotaped exams are "more accurate" and "more complete," he said.
The psychiatrist listed other benefits as well, including that videotaping the examination would allow him to pay closer attention to Holmes rather than being distracted by taking notes, and that a videotape is more reliable than handwritten notes.
The upcoming sanity evaluation will be the second that Holmes has undergone. In February, the judge ruled that the first evaluation of Holmes was "inadequate" and ordered that a second one be done by a different doctor, whose identity has not been made public. (He testified in court via telephone.) The first evaluation was not videotaped.
For more on Colorado's insanity defense, read our February cover story.
In his order, Samour concluded "that the law in Colorado does not prevent a psychiatrist from videotaping a court-ordered sanity examination." He did not find Holmes's attorneys' arguments persuasive, pointing out that they previously argued that the second examiner should be entitled "to exercise his or her own independent judgement as to how to best conduct the sanity examination."
Samour continued: "Now that the second examiner has indicated that ... he needs to videotape the examination, the defendant cannot sing a different tune and ask the Court to override the examiner's independent medical judgement."
The examiner has until October 15 to complete his report. Samour has ordered that he submit three copies of his videotaped evaluation: one for the judge, one for prosecutors and one for Holmes's attorneys. Holmes's trial is scheduled to begin December 8.
Holmes is accused of murdering twelve people and injuring seventy more by opening fire in an Aurora movie theater in July 2012. If convicted, he could face the death penalty.
Below, read Samour's order regarding videotaping the sanity evaluation.