Accused Aurora theater shooter James Holmes will argue that he was insane when he opened fire on a packed Colorado movie theater in July, killing 12 people and injuring 58, according to a court document filed Wednesday.
A mental health defense had long been speculated, but Holmes’ defense attorneys had challenged the constitutionality of how such defenses are conducted. Evaluations performed by a court-ordered doctor can be shared with the prosecutors. Defense lawyers worried that that could influence his sentencing.
Holmes is facing the death penalty.
An insanity plea will also remove the doctor-patient confidentiality between Holmes and a psychiatrist who treated him at the University of Colorado, ABC News reports.
Prior to the shooting rampage, Holmes mailed a package to Dr. Lynne Fenton that contained a notebook reportedly detailing some aspects of the crime. That notebook has been off limits to prosecutors due to doctor-patient confidentiality.
Several weeks ago, Holmes offered to plead guilty to the 166 counts against him — including numerous first-degree murder and attempted first-degree murder counts — if prosecutors would agree not to pursue the death penalty and sentence him to life in prison without the possibility of parole.
Arapahoe County District Attorney George Brauchler dismissed the offer as a publicity stunt and soon announced that he would seek the death penalty, saying he reached his decision after contacting more than 800 victims and their families.
Facing overwhelming evidence against him, Holmes’ attorneys have little choice but to enter an insanity defense.
During a hearing earlier in the year, police officers testified about how Holmes was wearing head-to-toe body armor when they took him into custody outside the theater, where he stood near a Glock handgun on the roof of his car.
Photos of weapons and explosives linked to the crime were found on his cell phone, as were pictures of the theater and the emergency exit through which he entered before opening fire. His apartment was wired with explosives and booby traps.
Holmes is expected to officially enter the plea on Monday. His lawyers must convince the judge that “good cause” for the plea exists, since a previous judge had entered a not guilty plea on his behalf.
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