"Not Guilty" Plea In Aurora Massacre

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Tuesday, March 12, 2013 - 4:09pm

Judge enters standard not guilty plea for accused gunman James Holmes over objections of defense team.

The man accused of killing 12 people and injuring dozens more in a Colorado movie theater last summer faced arraignment Tuesday.

Attorneys for Aurora Theater shooting suspect James Holmes said he wasn't ready to enter a plea,   so instead the judge entered a standard not guilty plea on his behalf, telling Holmes he could switch to an insanity plea later if he chooses.

If Holmes pleads not guilty by reason of insanity his past mental health records would become evidence. 

He would have to undergo state psychiatric tests, and in a ruling by district Judge William Sylvester released yesterday, he must agree to be medicated for interviews by state psychiatrists.    

Holmes' attorneys have argued that Colorado's insanity laws violate a defendant's constitutional rights because they require disclosure of potentially incriminating information. 

The judge rejected those arguments, clearing the way for Tuesday's arraignment, but issues may not be resolved regarding the constitutionality of insanity and death penalty laws.

"If Holmes enters a plea of not guilty by reason of insanity, and he chooses not to cooperate with the doctors, his lawyers may not be able to put on any evidence at all even in the death penalty phase about a mental disease or condition," says legal analyst Scott Robinson.

For some of the victims, the hearing marks another emotional event as they brace for a long legal process.

"People started crying, it's very emotional to hear the people that murdered your family or shot your loved one is continuing to get these chances and eight months is definitely long enough time to enter a plea," said Marcus Weaver, who was wounded in the attack.

Holmes' parents sat in the second row, clasping hands.  They made eye contact with their son, but said nothing. 

He's now bearded. His black hair has grown out, much different from his first court appearance last July when his hair was dyed orange, his gaze, far away and confused.

Holmes faces more than 160 felony counts in connection with the theater massacre.

Prosecutors have until April 1 to announce whether they will seek the death penalty.

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