A judge approved James Holmes's plea of not guilty by insanity on Tuesday, setting off a series of motions that could take months before Holmes will actually go to trial for shooting and killing 12 people and injuring at least 58 others in a movie theater last summer in Aurora, Colorado.
Arapahoe County Judge Carlos Samour finally accepted the official plea from Holmes's lawyers after months of delay: The judge initially entered a not guilty plea on behalf of the defense because Holmes' lawyers were undecided about whether or not they would seek an insanity plea; they offered a guilty plea if the prosecution wouldn't pursue the death penalty, but that was flatly denied. As we've explained, in most states the defense must prove their client insane. But in Colorado that responsibility falls on the prosecution — they're the ones who must now prove Holmes sane to dismantle an insanity plea. The prosecutors in Holmes's case did try to argue that Colorado's insanity laws were unconstitutional, but that was rejected by Samour last week, paving the way for Tuesday's decision.
With all of that out of the way, and Samour's final approval, things can finally start to move forward for this sure-to-be-long, already emotional case. On Monday, Samour approved an advisement outlining what the prosecution must go through to prove Holmes insane and win the case: "The advisement instructs Holmes, for instance, that he must cooperate in the court-ordered psychiatric evaluation and could be subject to a 'narcoanalytic interview' about his mental health," reports The Denver Post.
Which means that prosecutors could be able to interview Holmes while he's under the influence of a "truth serum" in order to determine whether or not he was sane at the time of the shooting. The truth serum motion was approved by former presiding judge William Sylvester, who excused himself from the trial once prosecutors decided to pursue the death penalty, in March. "The precise identity of the drug that would be used has not been released, other than a statement that it would be "medically appropriate", but it would most likely be a short-acting barbiturate such as sodium amytal," The Guardian explained. The decision to accept the not guilty plea will also cause the judge to decide whether the notebook full of disturbing images James sent to his psychiatrist will be admissible evidence in the case. Until then, all we can do is wait.
Update, 1:13 p.m.: According to 7News reporter Marshall Zelinger, judge Samour ruled the notebook is admissible evidence. The District Attorney will receive the notebook on June 10.
This article is from the archive of our partner The Wire.
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