The Herald Bulletin

Morning Update

Nation & World

May 7, 2013

Colorado shootings suspect to enter insanity plea

DENVER — The man accused in the deadly Colorado theater shootings wants to change his plea to not guilty by reason of insanity, his lawyers said Tuesday.

Attorneys for James Holmes said in a court filing they plan to formally ask for the change of plea at a May 13 hearing.

A judge in the case previously entered a standard not guilty plea for the 25-year-old Holmes. If the judge accepts the new plea, Holmes would be sent to the state mental hospital, where doctors would determine whether he was insane at the time of the July 20 shootings.

If the doctors do determine that Holmes was insane, a jury could still find him guilty.

Colorado law defines insanity as the inability to distinguish right from wrong, caused by a diseased or defective mind. The law specifically excludes depravity, "moral obliquity" or passion caused by anger or hatred from being considered insanity.

The insanity plea was widely expected given the compelling evidence against Holmes. He is charged with multiple counts of murder and attempted murder. Prosecutors are seeking the death penalty.

Holmes' attorneys have said in court hearings and written in court documents that Holmes is mentally ill. He was being seen by a psychiatrist before the July 20 attack at a midnight screening of the latest Batman movie that killed 12 people and injured 70.

Prosecutors say Holmes spent months buying guns and thousands of rounds of ammunition, donned police-style body armor and opened fire in the crowded theater in the Denver suburb of Aurora.

Holmes could be executed if he's convicted of more than 160 counts of murder and attempted murder.

Last month, prosecutors filed a court document listing aggravating factors they plan to raise in a possible death penalty phase of the trial. The factors included the death of 6-year-old Veronica Moser-Sullivan, the youngest of dead.

Prosecutors also said in the filing that the slayings were "especially heinous, cruel or depraved."

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