On July 20th, 2012, one of the most violent crimes in American history took place at the Century 16 movie theater in the Denver suburb of Aurora. Armed with tear gas grenades and multiple firearms, the gunman killed 12 and injured 58. The sole suspect, James Eagen Holmes, arrested shortly after the incident, faces 166 counts, including 24 counts of first-degree murder, 116 counts of attempted murder, one count of violent crime and various counts of weapons violations, including the possession of explosives.
On January 10th, 2013, a judge ruled that there was sufficient evidence for Holmes to face trial on all the counts with which he was charged. Holmes was then scheduled to enter his plea in mid-March.
Judge William Sylvester complicated matters in early March, however, by approving the use of a "narcoanalytic interview" should the defense opt to enter a plea of not guilty by reason of insanity. Such an interview would involve the use of a "truth serum," a substance to reduce the inhibitions of the defendant, as well as a polygraph evaluation. While the technique is decades old, such a prospect was reportedly quite alarming to the defense, who filed documents opposing the technique.
On March 12th, the attorney for Holmes informed the court that he was not ready to enter a plea. In response, the judge entered a plea of not guilty on behalf of Holmes, saying that the plea could later be changed to not guilty by reason of insanity. A hearing on whether the prosecutor's office will seek the death penalty in this case will be held on April 1st.
Meanwhile, another recent ruling in this case took place in New York. Fox News reporter Jana Winter asked a New York judge (where she resides) to delay her scheduled appearance in the Aurora courtroom set for April 1st, to testify about her confidential sources. Winters reported that Holmes sent a psychiatrist drawings foreshadowing the attack, quoting unnamed law-enforcement officials. Winter's lawyer argues that New York's "shield law" allows her to keep the confidentiality of her sources, while Holmes' lawyer says that report violated a gag order and want to know who was responsible. The New York judge rejected Winter's request, and there was no immediate indication as to whether the Colorado judge would rule on the requested delay.
Further adding to the circus that this trial seems to want to become is the appearance of the defendent himself. Most infamously remembered with bright orange hair and calling himself the Joker, Holmes is now sporting undyed brown hair and a thick beard and mustache. This has prompted rumors that Holmes has converted to Islam, rumors that were picked up by both the Washington Times and the UK Daily Mail.
Given how this act captivated national attention, further speculation, along with more twists and turns, will undoubtedly continue. We'll be watching this case with great interest. If you have any questions on this or in other arenas of criminal law, please feel free to contact us.