Shooting suspect James Holmes will now undergo a mental evaluation
A judge has accepted an insanity plea in the case of James Holmes, who is accused of killing 12 and injuring dozens more during a shooting rampage at a late-night screening of "The Dark Knight Rises" at an Aurora, Colo., movie theater last July, the Associated Press reports.
Holmes will next undergo a mental evaluation to determine if he was indeed insane when the shootings occurred.
"I find Mr. Holmes understands the effects and consequences of the not guilty by reason of insanity plea," Judge Carlos Samour Jr. said while accepting the plea. "He was looking at the advisement and appeared to be following along."
Prosecutors are seeking the death penalty against Holmes, who is charged with multiple counts of murder and attempted murder. They contend that the deadly incident was preceded by months of planning on Holmes' part.
Holmes' defense attorneys had held off on entering the insanity plea, arguing that Colorado's laws regarding the plea, combined with the death penalty, could create a violation of Holmes' constitutional rights. However, Samour rejected that argument last week.
With the insanity plea, a not-guilty verdict would mean that Holmes would be indefinitely committed to a state mental hospital. Should he be found guilty, defense and prosecutors would present arguments regarding whether Holmes should receive the death penalty.
Earlier this month, Holmes' attorneys filed a notice of intent to plead insanity. They also filed a motion seeking higher standards of fairness and reliability in the case, since prosecutors are seeking the death penalty.
"It is beyond dispute that this standard must be applied to any capital proceeding," the motion reads. "The United States Supreme Court has long held that the qualitative differences of death from all other punishments calls for a greater degree of reliability when the death sentence is imposed."