The trial of Aurora theater shooting suspect James Holmes is now scheduled to begin on December 8. Judge Carlos Samour set that date at a hearing today over objections from Holmes's attorneys, who argued that it wouldn't give them enough time to analyze a second sanity evaluation of Holmes that's due by October 15. "If we have to adjust, we'll do it," Samour said -- though he insisted on keeping the December trial date.
Also discussed at today's hearing was whether the psychiatrist tasked with completing that second sanity evaluation should be allowed to videotape the exam.
The psychiatrist, whose name was not revealed in court, testified via telephone. He said that the positives of videotaping the exam outweigh any potential negatives. "It is more accurate and it is more complete," he said of videotaped evaluations.
Holmes's attorneys object to the videotaping. They wrote in a motion earlier this month that they're concerned about "the chilling effect" a camera could have on Holmes. Today, they argued that at least one study has shown that recording evaluations affects the outcome, though that study wasn't focused on sanity examinations.
But the psychiatrist said there are several benefits to videotaping the evaluation, including that it would allow him to pay more attention to Holmes rather than being distracted by taking notes, that a videotape is more reliable than handwritten notes, that "errors and omissions are easier to spot and harder to hide" on video and that a videotape could reassure Holmes that the evaluation will be honest and credible.
The psychiatrist noted that the first sanity evaluation of Holmes, which the judge deemed "inadequate," was not videotaped. That exam was done by a different doctor.
For Holmes's second evaluation, the psychiatrist said he'd likely place a camera in the room as far from Holmes as possible, so as to be unobtrusive. The video equipment would be set up by a professional videographer, the psychiatrist said, but the videographer would not be present for the evaluation, nor would he or she listen in.
Samour said he expects to decide in the next few days whether to allow the videotaping.
Two potential expert witnesses -- one a metallurgist and another a gunshot residue analyst -- also testified at today's hearing. Holmes's attorneys are seeking to prevent them from testifying at trial. Today, the defense questioned the reliability and accuracy of the science that they rely on to reach their conclusions.
Much of the testimony was technical. However, a few interesting details were revealed. For instance, Carol Crowe, the Colorado Bureau of Investigation gunshot residue analyst, said she tested three things: a gas mask, a pair of gloves and swabs from Holmes's hands and face. All three tested positive for gunshot residue, she said.
But Crowe said that doesn't mean Holmes definitely fired a gun. It could also mean that he was near someone who fired a gun or that he touched something that had gunshot residue on it. Holmes attorney Katherine Spengler pointed out that studies have shown gunshot residue has been found in the backs of police cars and on tables in police interrogation rooms -- both of which are places Holmes could have been.
Spengler also revealed that Holmes wasn't swabbed for gunshot residue until 7:55 a.m. on July 20, nearly eight hours after the just-past-midnight shooting. In addition, she suggested that the gas mask and gloves could have been contaminated by coming into contact with other evidence and people.
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However, in a motion filed last year, Holmes's attorneys admitted that he "committed the acts" that occurred on July 20, 2012. They wrote that Holmes "suffers from a severe mental illness and was in the throes of a psychotic episode when he committed the acts that resulted in the tragic loss of life and injuries sustained by moviegoers."
Holmes, whose parents attended today's hearing, is accused of killing twelve people and injuring seventy more by opening fire inside an Aurora movie theater. He has pleaded not guilty by reason of insanity. If he's convicted, he could face the death penalty.Follow me on Twitter @MelanieAsmar or e-mail me at firstname.lastname@example.org