Judge won’t halt 2nd sanity review of James Holmes

This June 4, 2013 file photo shows Aurora theater shooting suspect James Holmes in court in Centennial, Colo. (AP Photo/The Denver Post, Andy Cross, Pool, File)

DENVER (AP) — The judge in the Colorado theater shooting case on Monday rejected defense lawyers’ attempts to block a second sanity evaluation of defendant James Holmes.

Arapahoe County District Judge Carlos A. Samour Jr. said he would keep the new examination on hold in case Holmes’ lawyers wanted to appeal his order. He also agreed to modify his instructions to the psychiatrist for the new evaluation to address some of the defense attorneys’ concerns, but the instructions were not made public.

Holmes pleaded not guilty by reason of insanity to charges of killing 12 people and injuring 70 in the July 2012 attack on an audience watching “The Dark Knight Rises” in the Denver suburb of Aurora. Prosecutors are seeking the death penalty.

Holmes underwent a mandatory sanity evaluation last year. The key findings have not been released, but prosecutors asked for a new evaluation, saying the doctor who conducted the first one was biased.

Samour ruled the first exam was inadequate and ordered a second.

Holmes’ lawyers objected, saying the order was improper and violated Holmes’ rights.

Many of the specifics of their objections have not been made public, and more than 80 pages of the five orders Samour signed Monday are redacted.

Holmes’ trial is scheduled to start in October with jury selection, which is expected to take weeks. It isn’t yet clear whether the defense objections to the second sanity evaluation will force another postponement.

The decision on whether Holmes was legally insane — unable to tell right from wrong — will be up to jurors. The opinions of the doctors who conduct the psychiatric evaluations will be key to that decision.

Defense lawyers have also asked for a change of venue, citing intense media coverage and the emotional toll of the attacks on potential jurors in Arapahoe County. The judge has not ruled on that request.

Also Monday, prosecutors agreed with defense lawyers that part of a pretrial hearing scheduled for May 5-6 should be closed to the public and the media during a discussion about a questionnaire that potential jurors will be asked to fill out.

Samour has not ruled on that request either.

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Follow Dan Elliott at http://twitter.com/DanElliottAP

Copyright 2014 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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