[QODLink]
Americas

Colorado shooter's insanity plea accepted

Colorado judge cites reason of insanity for accepting plea which sets stage for mental evaluation of suspect.

Last Modified: 04 Jun 2013 17:40
Email Article
Print Article
Share article
Send Feedback
James Holmes' lawyers repeatedly have said that he is mentally ill, but delayed the insanity plea [EPA]

A judge in the US state of Colorado has accepted a plea for not guilty by reason of insanity from the suspect in the Aurora theater shootings last year. 

Tuesday's decision sets the stage for a lengthy mental evaluation of James Holmes, who is accused of fatally shooting 12 people and injuring 70 in a packed movie theater in Aurora, Colorado during a Batman screening in July 2012.

The insanity plea is widely seen as Holmes' best chance of avoiding the death penalty, and possibly his only chance, given the weight of the evidence against him.

"The state law says that he has to cooperate now with state psychiatrists, but his defence team says that basically violates his right to not incriminate himself," said Al Jazeera's Patty Culhane, reporting from Washington. 

"The trial judge said that those claims are unfounded, that the case can move forward, but his legal team now has the ability to challenge this part of the law all the way to the state supreme court or even the US supreme court, which could actually extend this case for years," she added. 

The evaluation, however, could take months. Holmes is charged with multiple counts of murder and attempted murder. Prosecutors are seeking the death penalty.

Holmes' lawyers repeatedly have said he is mentally ill, but they delayed the insanity plea while arguing that state laws were unconstitutional.

The laws state that if Holmes does not cooperate with doctors conducting a mandatory mental evaluation, he would lose the right to call expert witnesses to testify about his sanity during the penalty phase of his trial.

His lawyers also contended the law does not define cooperation.

Judge Carlos Samour Jr. rejected those arguments last week and said the laws are constitutional.

The next step is an evaluation of Holmes by state doctors to determine whether he was insane at the time of the shootings. That could take months.

Colorado law defines insanity as the inability to distinguish right from wrong caused by a diseased or defective mind.

If jurors find Holmes not guilty by reason of insanity, he would be committed indefinitely to the state mental hospital. He could eventually be released if doctors find his sanity has been restored, but that is considered unlikely.

378

Source:
Al Jazeera and agencies
Email Article
Print Article
Share article
Send Feedback
Topics in this article
People
Country
City
Featured on Al Jazeera
Muslim volunteers face questioning and threat of arrest, while aid has been disrupted or blocked, charities say.
Six months on, outrage and sorrow over the mass schoolgirl abduction has disappeared - except for families in Nigeria.
ISIL combatants seeking an 'exit strategy' from Mideast conflict need positive reinforcement back home, analysts say.
European nation hit by a wave of Islamophobia as many young fighters join ISIL in Syria and Iraq.
Featured
Lack of child protection laws means abandoned and orphaned kids rely heavily on the care of strangers.
At least 25 tax collectors have been killed since 2012 in Mogadishu, a city awash in weapons and abject poverty.
Since she was 16-years-old, Scottish Nationalist Party's Sturgeon has strove for independence from the UK.
Armed group's ransom success with German hostages marks a re-emergence, as authorities investigate ISIL links.
Western nations are moving into the resource-rich country after decades of disinterest, challenging China's interests.