James Holmes is expected to use an insanity defense in relation to charges for the Aurora movie theater shooting last July. Holmes allegedly killed 12 moviegoers during a violent rampage on opening night of The Dark Knight Rises.
The insanity plea comes in court records released on Tuesday in which Holmes’ public defenders say he “intendeds to tender a plea of not guilty by reason of insanity” under Colorado state law.
The hearing to enter his plea will come on May 13. The insanity defense is not a surprise for Holmes, whose lawyers have previously hinted in court filings that they would pursue the defense. Neither prosecutors or attorneys for the accused have commented publicly on the case, because of a gag order imposed by a judge.
A visibly annoyed Judge William Sylvester, who is presiding over the case in Colorado’s 18th Judicial District, entered a standard not guilty plea on Holmes’ behalf last month when defense attorneys said they were not ready yet to make a decision.
Sylvester has since stepped aside. He was replaced by Judge Carlos A. Samour Jr. James Holmes is charged with 166 counts of first-degree murder, attempted murder, and weapons charges for the rampage that took place on July 20, 2012 in Aurora, Colorado. He faces the death penalty if he is convicted.
However, by law Holmes cannot be put to death if he is deemed insane or suffering from a mental defect. Defense attorneys filed a potential plea deal in March, saying they would offer to let Holmes plead guilty without the possibility of parole, as long as the district attorney’s office took the death penalty off the table. That offer was rejected.
The change of plea is set to happen on Monday at 9 am. After that, the clock will start for Holmes to undergo extensive psychiatric evaluation at a Colorado state hospital. The insanity plea does not mean the defendant didn’t plan the crime or show premeditation. Rather, it refers to his mental state at the time the crime occurred.
James Holmes trial is scheduled to begin in February 2014. However, the combination of the death penalty and an insanity plea could add months, or even years, to the process.