Earlier this week, we reported about a motion filed by the defense team representing accused Aurora theater shooter James Holmes asking for the current December 8 trial start date to be pushed back. Prosecutors have now responded, and they raise no objections to the request, making it likely that the proceedings won't get underway until 2015 -- well over two years after the original crime. We've got both documents and more below.
Holmes has been charged with killing twelve people and injuring seventy others during a midnight screening of The Dark Knight Rises at the Aurora Century 16 theater in July 2012. He has pleaded not guilty by reason of insanity.
As our Melanie Asmar has reported, Holmes' trial was originally scheduled to get underway this past February. However, the proceedings were postponed in November 2013 after prosecutors in the case asked that Holmes be given a second sanity evaluation.
The next trial date was slated for October 15. But in July, Judge Carlos Samour, who is overseeing the case, again agreed to a postponement request after Dr. William Reid, the examiner tasked with conducting evaluation two, asked for more time to complete his work. Hence, the current trial date of December 8.
The second evaluation was subsequently submitted. But earlier this week, Holmes' defense attorneys, represented by chief trial deputy state public defenders Daniel King and Tamara Brady, as well as deputy state public defender Kristen Nelson, asked for more time to digest the material. Here's an excerpt from their motion to continue the trial, on view below:
As an initial matter, defense counsel require more time to review and process the lengthy videotapes and all of the supporting documentation (which they have not yet received) from Dr. Reid's evaluation. There are simply not enough hours in the day for defense counsel to not only watch, but mentally process and digest 22 hours of forensic interviews of their client, review all of the supporting documentation that has been requested but not yet supplied by CMHIP, flesh out all of the legal issues involved, and draft all of the motions that will need to be drafted concerning Dr. Reid's report by October 29, 2014.
Now, 18th Judicial District DA George Brauchler has responded to this request -- and even though the relationship between the defense team and Brauchler has been prickly at times, the latest filing strikes a cooperative note. Brauchler writes: "The District Attorney acknowledges the issues raised in Motion D-245, and believes that it is reasonable for defense counsel to request a reasonable and limited amount of additional time to address the issues that defense counsel asserts are raised, or potentially raised, by the new mental health report."
Not everyone agrees. The filing notes that the DA's office reached out to victims on the question of another delay, and of the 147 who responded, 84 turned thumbs down on a postponement, while 29 didn't have a problem with a continuance so long as it was brief -- in the four-to-five weeks range -- and seventeen more mentioned no time limit. (Another seventeen didn't take a position.) Here's a sampling of victim reactions, as shared in the document:
"I do not object to a 4-5 week continuance of the trial date, but I would object to lengthier request for a continuance by the Defense. I really didn't want this to drudge into the holidays. This date is better."
"I do not object to a delay/continuance for the defense as long as the period of time is reasonable. I believe 4-5 weeks is reasonable."
"I actually do not object to this request. I think after the holidays is better for everyone, jurors included."
"If the attempt to delay is merely a spurious play for time on the part of the defense, then obviously I'd object to it. I'd prefer the trial go ahead as scheduled, but I honestly don't know how long it takes to get reliable psychological evaluations. I do believe the defendant is entitled to as fair a trial as anyone else, whatever he may or may not have done, and hope that both the prosecution and defense address that issue above all."
"I do not object to any delay or continuance of the trial date as requested by the defense in light of new mental health evidence."
"I do wholeheartedly object to this! Proceed as scheduled!"
"I object to any delay or continuance of the trial date as requested by the defense. Two and a half years of this has been difficult and it is constantly getting delayed."
"I do object to another delay. The victims' families have already waited too long for this trial to start."
"Over two years is enough time, this needs to be done."
"This is very unfortunate. While I want to make sure justice is served and give the defense all the time they need to prepare a proper defense, if that's possible considering the crimes charged, I believe this has dragged on long enough and we need to press forward. The stalling has becoming taxing and wearing on me emotionally."
"l object to ANY further delays in this case. I think enough time has passed and the victims and their families deserve closure and justice."
"We wholeheartedly OBJECT to any continuance! I mean, come on...it's been 2 years, 3 months and 2 days!!"
Judge Samour will make the final decision, but with both the prosecution and the defense on the same page, it's likely the trial date will be rescheduled for early next year -- extending the time since the crime mentioned in the last comment above even further.
Here's the prosecution's filing, followed by the defense team's previous motion.
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Send your story tips to the author, Michael Roberts.