Bloomberg News

Accused Colorado Shooter Loses Challenge to Insanity Law

March 08, 2013

James Holmes, charged with murdering 12 people in a shooting rampage at a Colorado movie theater in July, lost a challenge to the state’s law governing insanity pleas.

Judge William Sylvester of the Arapahoe County District Court rejected a request by Holmes’s lawyers to rule that the law is vague and unconstitutional, declining to go into specifics. Any opinions on the state’s statutes at this time would be “premature and advisory,” Sylvester said in a ruling made public today.

“This court has not and will not address any questions dependent on hypothetical facts and circumstances not before it at this time,” Sylvester wrote. He said appellate courts have upheld parts or versions of the statutes in dispute.

Holmes, a former student at the University of Colorado in Denver, is scheduled to be arraigned March 12 on 166 counts, including murder and attempted murder. His lawyers said in court filings last week that he is considering pleading not guilty by reason of insanity. Holmes may face the death penalty if convicted of first-degree murder.

Under Colorado law, prosecutors may use statements or evidence obtained from a court-ordered psychiatric evaluation of a defendant who pleads insanity, Holmes’s attorneys have said. The attorneys, with the state’s public defender’s office, argued that the law is unconstitutionally vague and violates Holmes’s right against self-incrimination.

Sylvester said he found that the statutes are not unconstitutional. He wouldn’t go into further detail. He granted the lawyers’ request for an explanation of the consequences of entering an insanity plea.

Doug Wilson, Colorado’s state public defender, didn’t immediately return a phone call seeking comment on the ruling.

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

To contact the reporter on this story: Sophia Pearson in Philadelphia at

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

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