Bloomberg News

Colorado Theater Suspect Holmes May Plead Insanity, Lawyers Say

March 01, 2013

James Holmes, charged in a shooting rampage in a Colorado movie theater that left 12 people dead, is considering pleading not guilty by reason of insanity, his lawyers said in court filings.

Before he can enter a plea, the lawyers want a state judge to strike down portions of Colorado’s criminal statutes governing insanity defenses, according to the filings today in state court in Centennial. The judge in the case would have to order a mental examination of the defendant if he pleads insanity, and under state law prosecutors may be allowed to use what Holmes says during the exam to seek the death penalty, which is unconstitutional, they said.

“Mr. Holmes asserts that the above-specified statutory provisions, as well as the statutory scheme in general, are unconstitutional,” Tamara Brady, a lawyer for Holmes, wrote. “Defense counsel cannot intelligently or effectively advise Mr. Holmes of the consequences of entering a plea” regarding insanity “at trial and/or sentencing until this motion is ruled upon and the court advises the defense of the consequences of these decisions.”

Holmes, who studied neuroscience at the University of Colorado, Denver, is charged with 166 counts, including murder and attempted murder. He might face the death penalty if convicted of first-degree murder. He is scheduled to be arraigned March 12. Prosecutors haven’t yet been required to disclose whether they intend to seek the death penalty, according to a defense filing today.

‘Mental Condition’

In separate motions today, defense lawyers asked the judge to define certain terms, such as “cooperate” and “mental condition,” in the state’s insanity defense statutes or strike down those parts of the statute.

Brady and Daniel King, chief trial deputy at the state public defender’s office, didn’t return a voice-mail message seeking comment on the filings.

The case is People v. Holmes, 12-cr-01522, 18th Judicial District Court, Colorado (Centennial).

To contact the reporters on this story: Karen Gullo in San Francisco at

To contact the editor responsible for this story: Michael Hytha at

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