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James Holmes’ attorneys admit his role in Aurora theater shooting

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Greg Campbell Contributor
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Lawyers for accused Aurora theater shooter James Holmes admitted in court documents that their client gunned down 12 people and wounded 58 during one of the most shocking mass murders in U.S. history, but they said that he was in the “throes of a psychotic episode” while doing it.

The admission was included in a motion objecting to Judge Carlos Samour’s recent ruling that Holmes be tethered to the floor by a security cable during his trial. The lawyers objected, saying that the cable, which might be visible to jurors, would give the impression that he is dangerous.

“Other than the nature of the charges in this case, there is no evidence that Mr. Holmes presents a danger to the safety of the courtroom or a flight risk of any kind,” the motion reads.

“To the contrary, the evidence revealed thus far in the case supports the defense’s position that Mr. Holmes suffers from a severe mental illness and was in the throes of a psychotic episode when he committed the acts that resulted in the tragic loss of life and injuries sustained by movie goers on July 20, 2012,” it says.

Holmes has pleaded not guilty by reason of insanity and is currently undergoing a mandatory mental health evaluation by state doctors. He is facing the death penalty.

Samour ordered the restraints — which will be underneath civilian clothes Holmes will be allowed to wear during his trial — so that his hands and feet could be unshackled in court, an attempt to preserve his right to a fair trial by not making him look guilty.

But his lawyers argued that “the fact that Mr. Holmes will be chained to the floor during trial has been widely broadcast and publicized throughout the state of Colorado and beyond,” undermining that right.

“The fact that the leash will be purportedly concealed is of no benefit once the Court broadcasts it to the prospective jury pool,” the motion continued, taking a swipe at Samour.

In response, Samour swiped back.

“What the defendant requested,” Samour wrote, “was ‘not to be visibly shackled at trial.’ … The Court granted that request [original emphasis].”

“Inasmuch as the defendant is charged with 24 counts of first degree murder [two for each victim killed] and 140 counts of attempted first degree murder following a shooting at two adjacent Aurora movie theaters, it is not appropriate to allow him to be unrestrained during the trial,” he wrote.

He also replied to a suggestion by Holmes’s attorneys that a hearing should have been held on the matter, writing, “the Court does not hold hearings just to hold hearings or to placate an attorney.”

Finally, he added that the complaints in the motion about the floor tether were “high on rhetoric” but “low on substance.”

Hearings in January laid out the case against Holmes. He was arrested outside the back entrance of the Aurora theater clad in body armor, standing near a handgun on the roof of his car. Weapons used in the shooting were found in photos on his cell phone. His apartment had been wired with explosives and booby traps.

Despite his insanity plea, the motion is the first time his defense team has plainly stated he committed the crimes he’s charged with.

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