Lawyers say US theatre shooting suspect not ready to make a plea

Associated Press

CENTENNIAL, Colo. - A judge has ordered the suspected gunman in last year's Colorado theatre shooting to stand trial, but his attorneys say they're not ready to enter a plea at a hearing Friday morning.

After a week in which prosecutors made a graphic case to bring 25-year-old James Holmes to trial for the shooting that left 12 dead and 70 wounded, the judge on Thursday ruled that the case could go forward. Holmes faces multiple counts of first-degree murder and attempted murder and could face the death penalty.

But Holmes' lawyers, who have said he is mentally ill, are likely to ask for a delay. They may ask for a mental health evaluation instead.

Either side also could argue that Holmes is not mentally capable of assisting in his own defence. If he's found incompetent, the case would come to a halt while he receives psychiatric treatment and until he can be declared competent for trial.

Holmes is accused of entering the theatre during a midnight showing of the latest "Batman" movie and, wearing body armour, spraying the crowd with bullets. Police say he also rigged his apartment to explode and distract officers from the theatre, but the explosives were not triggered and were taken apart by authorities.

Prosecutors this week presented self-portraits that Holmes took hours before the July attack, sometimes smiling and sometimes with a pistol. Another photo showed weapons, ammunition and body armour spread out on his bed.

Witnesses testified that Holmes had two semi-automatic pistols, a shotgun, a semi-automatic rifle, 6,200 rounds of ammunition and high-capacity magazines that allow a shooter to fire more rounds without stopping to reload.

Ultimately, Holmes is widely expected to plead not guilty or — more likely — not guilty by reason of insanity.

If found not guilty by reason of insanity, Holmes would be committed to the state mental hospital for treatment. His case would be reviewed every six months. He conceivably could be released if he is deemed no longer insane.

"Insanity is what this case is going to turn on," said Denver criminal defence attorney Dan Recht. "This is not a whodunit case."

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Associated Press writers Dan Elliott and P. Solomon Banda contributed to this report.

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