It’s been nearly two years since the attack on an Aurora, Colorado movie theater rattled the country, and the fate of gunman James Holmes is still not certain as defense attorneys and prosecutors continue to argue viciously over issues of his mental sanity and the death penalty. The latest development finds the defense accusing the judge in the case of favoritism.
While the defense focuses on its latest set of motions (two other motions remain sealed) filed last week, the issue of Holmes’ mental state continues to be determined.
During the week of January 27, 2014, a series of four hearings closed to the media and public took place followed by an open hearing on that Friday at the Arapahoe County District Court.
Prosecutors requested a second court ordered psychiatric evaluation of Holmes on the claim that the first results, from the summer of 2013 after Holmes pleaded not guilty by reason of insanity, were made by a biased doctor and therefore invalid.
The determination of the mental state of Holmes is crucial.
If Holmes is found to be insane, he is too mentally sick to be a fit candidate for the death penalty. If he is found to have been sane during the shooting, he will most likely face execution. Juries have a tendency to side with the findings of the psychiatric evaluation, so the report on his mental health will have an extraordinary impact on the results of this case.
The results of the first psychiatric evaluation are not available to the public, which is why the first several hearings took place behind closed doors.
The Friday hearing was open, and it was established that the family and friends of Holmes are allowed to testify, but will not be able to discuss their opinions on the death penalty with the jury. Victims of the shooting, and survivors of victims, face the same rules in court.
Arapahoe County District Court Judge Carlos Samour set the trial date for October, which is when one of the largest juries in U.S. history, at 6,000 prospective jurors, will be summoned for the first phase of jury selection.
Before that process begins, which could take months and push back prosecution even further, Samour set two weeks of hearings on arguments about the death penalty for the end of April and beginning of May.
A date for the final efforts to further postpone the trial is set for September 5, in an attempt to keep the already delayed case on schedule.
12 people were shot to death and 70 were injured by gunfire in the summer of 2012. Those left in the wake of the attack are frustrated with the time it has taken for trial to begin.