DENVER (AP) — The trial of the former grad student charged in the deadly Colorado movie theater shootings will likely be delayed weeks or months because he wants to change his plea to not guilty by reason of insanity.
James Holmes‘ attorneys filed the court papers Tuesday.
The judge handling the case will hear arguments from the defense and prosecutors about the request Monday. If the judge accepts the plea, Holmes would be sent to the state mental hospital where doctors would determine whether he was sane at the time of the shootings. If he’s found to be insane, a jury still could find him guilty.
Tom Sullivan, whose son, Alex, was killed in the attack, said prosecutors have warned victims that an insanity plea would delay the case.
“We’re just mortified that this is the process that we’re going through, and we still have a long way to go,” Sullivan said Tuesday. “I know justice will win out in the end.”
Holmes, 25, is charged with more than 160 counts of murder and attempted murder in the July 20 attack in Aurora that killed 12 people and left 70 wounded or injured. Prosecutors said Holmes spent months buying guns and thousands of rounds of ammunition, donned police-style body armor and opened fire during a midnight screening of the latest Batman movie.
Prosecutors announced last month they would seek the death penalty at the trial now scheduled to start Feb. 3.
Holmes was widely expected to plead insanity, given the compelling evidence against him. But his lawyers delayed it for weeks, saying state laws on the death penalty and insanity overlap in ways that could severely hamper his ability to mount a defense against capital punishment.