Not guilty plea for James Holmes – but insanity option still on table
At the arraignment Tuesday for James Holmes, the Colorado shooting suspect, his lawyers said he was not yet ready to enter a plea. The judge entered the not-guilty plea on the suspect's behalf.
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Holmes could also be medicated during interviews by psychologists and forced to take a polygraph, Sylvester noted Monday. His lawyers have objected to the narcoanalytic interview, in which he could be forced to take "truth serum" to make him more compliant.Skip to next paragraph
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Given that those rulings just came through Monday, it's not that surprising that Holmes's lawyers wanted to wait to enter a plea, says Dan Recht, a prominent criminal defense attorney based in Denver. What is more surprising, Mr. Recht says, is that the judge forced the plea and didn't grant the delay the lawyers requested, especially given that Sylvester had just issued a written order the day before on the consequences of an insanity plea.
"It's clear to me unequivocally that the defense will plead not guilty by reason of insanity," Recht says. "They just didn't want to do it today, because that would trigger the court-ordered evaluation.... Given the judge's order yesterday, they wanted to think through what to do and how to declare their client for the inevitable evaluation."
Under Colorado law, the defense has to enter an insanity plea at the arraignment unless there is "good cause shown." Still, Recht says, it's fairly certain that whenever the lawyers do decide to change the plea – probably within the next 60 days – the judge will allow them to.
Prosecutors in the case have said that they will declare by April 1 whether to seek the death penalty.
That they will do so is also a virtual certainty, Recht says. But, he notes, it's not a decision set in stone. Declaring that they'll seek the death penalty "just preserves their right to do that," he says. "They can easily come off that anytime they want to."
The Holmes trial is currently scheduled for Aug. 5.
• Material from the Associated Press was used in this report.