Aurora theater shooting trial set for October 14, but could it be delayed again?
Aurora theater shooting gunman James Holmes has a new trial date: October 14, 2014. But that date, which is already a postponement from Holmes's original February trial date, could be pushed back again.
At a court hearing this morning, Holmes's defense attorneys indicated that they plan to challenge a ruling issued by Judge Carlos Samour last week that grants prosecutors' request for Holmes to undergo a second mental evaluation pursuant to his insanity plea. In his order, Samour called the first evaluation "inadequate."
The first evaluation was done by Dr. Jeffrey Metzner, a psychiatrist and consultant to the Colorado Mental Health Institute at Pueblo, or CMHIP. After the evaluation was completed, prosecutors filed a motion alleging that it contained "numerous deficiencies" and that Metzner himself had an "unfair bias." They requested that Holmes be re-evaluated by two out-of-state doctors of their choosing.
Instead, Samour ordered CMHIP to choose a new "neutral expert" by March 10. He also set a deadline for the expert's report: July 11. That report is to contain one conclusion: whether Holmes was insane when he killed twelve people and injured seventy more by opening fire inside the Century 16 movie theater in Aurora on July 20, 2012.
But today, defense attorney Tamara Brady said Holmes's lawyers intend to file "objections" to Samour's order and may even appeal it to the Colorado Supreme Court. Brady explained that the defense is investigating whether there is anything unconstitutional or illegal about the order to have Holmes evaluated a second time. Samour set a deadline of March 14 for the defense to register its objections.
The defense indicated it will ask Samour to postpone the second evaluation until it files its objections -- a request Samour said he's inclined to grant "just to be safe." He said he plans to order CMHIP to hold off on forwarding any materials related to the case to any new potential experts until the matter is resolved.
At today's short hearing, Samour also set aside two weeks -- the weeks of April 28 and May 5 -- to debate motions related to the death penalty, which the prosecution is seeking against Holmes. He also laid out the process for summoning potential jurors.
Under the current schedule, Samour said he plans to send out 6,000 jury summonses on September 5. The first day that potential jurors would show up to the courthouse to begin the jury selection process would be October 14.
Samour said he understands that many victims are frustrated by how slowly the case is moving. But, he added, "as much as I know people are eager to have this trial take place...I want to make sure things are done right."
Samour also set a pretrial status conference for September 5. Among other issues, he said he plans to address at that hearing a motion filed by Holmes's defense attorneys seeking to "limit inflammatory images shown to jurors."
According to the motion (which is on view below), those images include "photographs and video of the deceased victims and severely injured victims," which, it argues, "are likely to have the improper effects of offending the jurors, causing them trauma, evoking sympathy for the victims' families, arousing passion against Mr. Holmes and causing jurors to convict or impose a death sentence for constitutionally improper reasons."
In their response to the defense's motion (also on view below), prosecutors said they don't have a problem with Samour deciding whether certain pieces of evidence are relevant or whether they are prejudicial. However, they argue that the crime itself was "very violent in nature" and the photos and videos "are probably the best evidence of what he did."
Here are the two imagery motions:
Get the This Week's Top Stories Newsletter
Every week we collect the latest news, music and arts stories — along with film and food reviews and the best things to do this week — so that you'll never miss Westword's biggest stories.