James Holmes appears in Arapahoe County District Court in Centennial, Colo., July 23, 2012.

James Holmes Expected to Plead Insanity to Avoid Death Penalty

There's no guarantee the defense will spare Holmes.

James Holmes appears in Arapahoe County District Court in Centennial, Colo., July 23, 2012.
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James Holmes, the former neuroscience graduate student accused of murdering 12 people at a July 2012 showing of "The Dark Knight Rises" in Aurora, Colo., will return to court Monday.

Holmes is expected to plead not guilty by reason of insanity to the 166 charges against him during the hearing, scheduled to begin at 9:00 a.m. CDT, Reuters reports. There's no guarantee that this defense will spare Holmes from being convicted and executed - as prosecutors are seeking the death penalty as punishment.

Colorado requires defendants who claim insanity to undergo an independent court-ordered psychiatric evaluation. Whatever the defendant says during the evaluation can be used at trial, even if the insanity plea is rejected.

Earlier this year, Holmes's lawyers unsuccessfully challenged the constitutionality of the state's insanity plea process.

[READ: Holmes Shared 'Homicidal Thoughts' With Psychiatrist Before Shooting]

 

At previous court appearances, Holmes did not submit a plea himself, with a "not guilty" plea submitted on his behalf by the presiding judge.

In late March, Holmes, through his attorneys, offered to plead guilty in exchange for a sentence of life in prison. Prosecutors rebutted the offer, announcing on April 1 that they are seeking the death penalty. "For James Eagan Holmes, justice is death," said Arapahoe County District Attorney George Brauchler.

Documents unsealed in April revealed that Holmes shared "homicidal thoughts" with University of Colorado psychiatrist Lynne Fenton in June 2012, one month before the shooting. According to an affidavit detailing a conversation between Fenton and a university police officer, Fenton said Holmes "had stopped seeing her and had begun threatening her via text messages." Fenton warned police that Holmes was a "danger to the public due to homicidal statements," but did not order a 72-hour psychiatric hold, which would have involuntarily detained Holmes for evaluation.

District Court Judge Carlos Samour granted a defense request Friday for "heightened standards of fairness and reliability to all aspects of this capital case." An armed Holmes was arrested outside the Aurora movie theater on the night of the attack. The shooting's youngest victim was 6-year-old Veronica Moser-Sullivan, who died while watching the movie with her pregnant mother, who survived after suffering a miscarriage.

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