Accused Aurora theater shooter James Holmes will argue that he was insane when he opened fire on a packed movie theater last July, killing 12 and injuring 58.
Judge Carlos Samour Jr. accepted the insanity plea on Tuesday after rejecting the defense’s arguments last week that the insanity defense violates Holmes’ constitutional right against self-incrimination.
Holmes will now be extensively evaluated by state mental health experts, Fox News reports, a process that could take many months.
During a preliminary hearing earlier this year, police witnesses testified about the carnage inside the theater when they responded to reports of shots fired approximately 40 minutes into the midnight premiere of “The Dark Knight Rises.”
Police believe Holmes attended the showing and left through a rear exit in the theater, wedging the door open so that he could return with a small arsenal of weapons, including an AR-15 with a 100-round drum magazine, a shotgun and a handgun with a green laser sight.
Police believe he only stopped shooting because the 100-round magazine jammed.
Holmes was arrested outside the theater near his car, dressed in head to toe body armor and wearing a police-style helmet.
Officers described how they transported the wounded to area hospitals in squad cars, with one describing how blood had pooled so deeply on the floorboards that he could hear it sloshing when he turned corners.
Police found photos on Holmes’s phone showing the weapons used in the shooting, as well as pictures of the theater door and the inside of the auditorium. His apartment was rigged with explosives and booby traps.
Arapahoe County District Attorney George Brauchler is seeking the death penalty and because of the overwhelming amount of evidence against Holmes, the insanity plea may be his only hope of avoiding execution.
Earlier, defense attorneys offered for Holmes to plead guilty to the multiple charges of first degree murder and attempted first degree murder if prosecutors would take the death penalty off the table and agree to a sentence of life in prison without the possibility of parole. Brauchler dismissed the offer as a publicity stunt.
If Holmes is found not guilty by reason of insanity, he would be committed to the state mental hospital for an indefinite period of time, according to Fox News.
His lawyers challenged the constitutionality of the insanity defense because Holmes’ mental evaluations will be shared with prosecutors, which could influence the sentencing phase if he’s found guilty.
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