Mass Murder Suspect Changes His Plea

     DENVER (CN) – Accused mass murderer James Holmes on Monday pleaded not guilty by reason of insanity, in a hearing on the Colorado movie massacre.
     Holmes is accused of killing 12 people and wounding 70 last July during a midnight premiere of the Batman movie “The Dark Knight Rises” at the Century 16 theater in Aurora.
     Holmes could face the death penalty if convicted of murder, but Colorado does not execute the criminally insane.
     At the arraignment in March, an Arapahoe County judge entered a not guilty plea on Holmes’ behalf after his attorneys said that they weren’t prepared to enter a plea.
     At Monday’s status hearing, defense attorney Daniel King revealed what had changed in the last two months.
     “We now have a diagnosis that is complete,” King told Judge Carlos Samour, saying a mental health expert had evaluated Holmes and prepared an opinion on his mental state.
     King did not disclose the diagnosis or who made it.
     He said that though the defense had “hit the ground running” and had been “working on all cylinders, all the time,” the arraignment came too soon for a medical evaluation that apparently had been going on behind the scenes for months.
     Judge Samour, who had ordered the defense to show good cause for the plea change, found King’s explanation adequate.
     “I am persuaded and satisfied that the defense acted diligently once it had [Holmes’ medical] information,” the judge said.
     The new plea will not be official until the end of the month. Samour delayed Holmes’ advisement until May 31 to allow both sides to file arguments about the proposed change.
     Prosecutors said they did not have a problem with the change of plea, only with the time that it took the defense to do it.
     Prosecuting attorney Jacob Edson demanded a more specific accounting of the two months since Holmes’ arraignment, including the date when the diagnosis was delivered. He asked how the defense counsel could make so little progress in the 294 days since they were appointed.
     King countered: “I think it’s remarkable that we have made the progress we have made. He cited the prosecution’s statement that it had reviewed more than 40,000 pages of discovery and Samour’s description of the case filed as “voluminous.”
     Samour said that that letting Holmes change his plea was “consistent with fairness and justice.””
     Samour denied requests from King and fellow public defender Tamara Brady to delay the advisement hearing until June, saying he was “very eager” to press on with the agreed-upon pretrial schedule.
     The judge refused to extend a May 31 motions deadline by more than a day despite King’s contention that his team was “burning the midnight oil.”
     Holmes’ advisement hearing is scheduled for May 31 at 9:30 a.m. The next status hearing is June 4. The trial is slated to begin in February 2014.

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