James Holmes will plead insane

The Aurora shooter's lawyers say they wish to alter the standard "not guilty" plea entered by a judge


Natasha Lennard
May 8, 2013 5:38PM (UTC)

James Holmes, the shooter who opened fire in a packed Colorado movie theater killing 12, will plead not guilty by reason of insanity. As the AP noted, "A judge in the case previously entered a standard not guilty plea for Holmes. If the judge accepts the insanity plea, Holmes would be sent to the state mental hospital, where doctors would determine whether he was insane at the time of the shootings on 20 July 2012."

As Salon noted earlier this year, the case's judge has already ruled that should Holmes enter an insanity plea, prosecutors would be permitted to interrogate him using (improperly dubbed) "truth serum." Judge William Sylvester granted that a “narcoanalytic interview” could be employed to determine if Holmes is genuinely insane. This would entail injecting the accused mass murderer with gradual doses of a barbiturate (most likely sodium amytal) while prosecutors subject him to questioning. If used, the narcoanalytic interview would aim to determine whether Holmes is malingering (feigning illness) -- although experts have argued that there are better means to determine malingering.

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The AP noted that Holmes' insanity plea was "widely expected":

If the judge accepts the insanity plea, Holmes would be sent to the state mental hospital, where doctors would determine whether he was insane at the time of the shootings on 20 July 2012.

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

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's 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 attack during 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 a crowded Aurora theater during the screening.

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

 


Natasha Lennard

Natasha Lennard is an assistant news editor at Salon, covering non-electoral politics, general news and rabble-rousing. Follow her on Twitter @natashalennard, email nlennard@salon.com.

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Aurora Shooting Colorado Insanity James Holmes Shooting

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