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Colorado Shooter’s Defense Challenge Requirements of Insanity Defense Law
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Last Thursday, the defense for James Holmes, the person accused for mass shooting movie goers during a midnight screening of “The Dark Knight Rises” last July, challenged the requirements of Colorado’s insanity defense law.

Holmes’s defense lawyers maintain that during the period of killing about 12 persons and wounding dozens of others, Holmes was insane.

They argue that the state does not have the right to call for an independent court appointed expert to verify their claims, and instead hold that the requirements of the insanity defense law are unconstitutional. They view the legal requirements as unconstitutional because the law forces Holmes to co-operate with court appointed psychiatrists or forfeit his rights to raise mental-health issued during sentencing.


Prosecutors told Arapahoe County District Judge Carlos Samour Jr. that there is no way to evaluate defense claims that Holmes was legally insane at the moment of committing the crime unless there was an independent examination following stipulations of the insanity defense law.

The public defenders submitted that compelling Holmes to provide information to psychiatrists violated his right against self-incrimination, and the information could be used against him at trial or sentencing, if he is convicted.

Kristen Nelson, a public defender in the matter said that if the defendant fails to cooperate with court-appointed psychiatrists, then barring evidence from defense experts would be unconstitutional.

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Nelson said, “The U.S. Supreme Court has said time and again that you cannot put limitations on relevant mitigating evidence.”

Countering the arguments of Holmes’s defense lawyers, Prosecutor Rich Orman said the insanity defense law has been upheld by numerous state and federal courts and overturning the law would mean, “asking your honor to be part of the defense team.”

Orman also stressed that without examination of defense claims by third-party psychiatrists, there was no way “to assess the reliability and relevancy” of the insanity defense.


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