[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
'Justice for All' demonstrations swell across the US over the deaths of African Americans in police encounters.
Six former Guantanamo detainees are now free in Uruguay with some hailing the decision to grant them asylum.
Disproportionately high number of Aboriginal people in prison highlights inequality and marginalisation, critics say.
Nearly half of Canadians have suffered inappropriate advances on the job - and the political arena is no exception.
Featured
Women's rights activists are demanding change after Hanna Lalango, 16, was gang-raped on a bus and left for dead.
Buried in Sweden's northern forest, Sorsele has welcomed many unaccompanied kids who help stabilise a town exodus.
A look at the changing face of North Korea, three years after the death of 'Dear Leader'.
While some fear a Muslim backlash after café killings, solidarity instead appears to be the order of the day.
Victims spared by the deadly disease are reporting blindness and other unexpected post-Ebola health issues.