The judge in the case of James Holmes, the accused Colorado movie theater shooter, entered a not-guilty plea on behalf of the defendant at his arraignment Tuesday in Centennial, Colo.
Judge William Blair Sylvester took the action over the objection of Daniel King, one of the attorneys representing Holmes, after he said the defense was not ready to enter a plea. Holmes is charged with multiple counts of murder and attempted murder in the July 20 mass shooting at a theater in Aurora, Colo., that left 12 dead and more than 70 injured.
The judge set Aug. 5 for the start of the trial.
In entering the plea for Holmes, Sylvester said that the 25-year-old defendant may change his plea to not guilty by reason of insanity at a later date.
Without a successful insanity defense, Sylvester is looking at either the death penalty or life in prison if convicted.
Prosecutors have yet to announce whether they will pursue capital punishment in this case; they are expected to make their intentions known by early April.
Holmes was present at Tuesday’s hearing dressed in a red, jail-issued jumpsuit and had a thick untrimmed beard and uncombed dark brown hair.
Lawyers for Holmes have been weighing options for their client for several months and are thought to be leaning toward the insanity plea. But if they choose that course, then their client's mental-health records would be available to state prosecutors. Holmes also would be subject to a mental-health examination by Colorado officials.
If the insanity plea is offered and the jury agrees that Holmes capacity was diminished, he would be remanded to a state mental hospital rather than face prison or execution. He would, however, be subject to re-evaluation and possible release depending on his condition.
At Tuesday’s proceeding, Judge Sylvester asked King if Holmes was ready to enter a plea. King responded that his client was not ready for arraignment.
"I don't think we could ethically stand before you and tell you we're ready to make a plea," King said, the Denver Post reported.
When asked by Sylvester when the defense might be prepared, King responded that it would be by either May 1 or June 1.
Sylvester then entered the plea.
Present in the courtroom Tuesday were a number of the victims or families of the victims of the shooting spree that came at a midnight showing of “The Dark Knight Rises.”
Holmes’ parents James and Arlene Holmes (pictured above) were also present and, according to the Associated Press, left the courtroom after the proceedings without talking to reporters.