The suspect in the deadly theater shooting in Aurora, Colorado is changing his plea to not guilty by reason of insanity. James Holmes, 25, is facing over 160 counts of murder and attempted murder after the July 2012 shooting.
Prosecutors announced in April that they would be seeking the death penalty in the case against Holmes. Holmes’ attorneys had been putting off an insanity plea, claiming that doing so would make it harder to mount a proper defense.
According to the Associated Press, the defense attorneys were concerned about Holmes’ ability to cooperate with the doctors that would determine his level of sanity. If he does not, it is possible that they will not be able to call witnesses to testify to Holmes’ mental state. This would make it very difficult to use an insanity plea and avoid capital punishment.
Holmes was originally set to enter a plea in March. He refused to do so because he was not given good advice from his lawyers. At that time, the judge entered him into a standard not guilty plea.
The judge then withdrew from the case in early April, and District Judge Carlos Samour took over for him. Samour will have to approve the plea, and will hear from both sides before coming to a decision on Monday.
If Holmes does enter into an insanity plea, doctors will have to prove that he was in fact insane at the time of the shooting. Holmes was seeing a psychiatrist before the attack and he had no prior criminal record.
According to media reports, Holmes had sent a notebook to his psychiatrist that contained violent drawings. Normally, evidence from psychiatrists cannot be used in court. However when a defendant enters an insanity plea, the prosecution is allowed to obtain some medical records pertaining to the defendant’s mental health.
Holmes is being accused of murdering 12 people and injuring 70 in a movie theater in Aurora during a midnight screening of the movie The Dark Knight Rises. He opened fire in the theater, using guns and ammunition that he had acquired over the course of several months.
Parents of some of the victims say that this plea will only further delay the trial.