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Colorado Mass Shooter’s Insanity Plea Accepted: Killer’s Notebook May Hold the Key
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On Tuesday, Colorado theater gunman James Holmes entered a plea of not guilty by reason of insanity. Holmes’ plea was accepted by Arapahoe County District Judge Carlos Samour Jr. after a 90-minute hearing on the consequences of the insanity defense.

Now, prosecutors would need to prove that Holmes was able to differentiate between right and wrong at the moment he snuffed out the lives of 12 moviegoers and wounded 58 other persons during the midnight premier of a Batman movie.

Last month, public defender Daniel King had told the court that defense psychiatrists had a complete diagnosis of an unspecified mental illness from which Holmes had suffered.

  
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While the court ordered Holmes should undergo mental examinations, much of the case would now revolve around a notebook Holmes sent to Dr. Lynn Fenton the day before he went on the rampage. Dr. Fenton is a Denver psychiatrist who had treated Holmes once, more than one month prior to the massacre.

Prosecutors suspect that the notebook, which reached the doctor two days after the massacre can contain detailed plans or notes of Holmes’ actions.

Until now, defense attorneys had prevented the prosecution from getting their hands on the notebook, claiming doctor-patient privilege.

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However, Holmes having changed his plea from “not guilty” to the defense of insanity, the judge ordered the parcel containing the notebook to be turned over to the prosecution. The parcel had been sealed and in the court’s custody since July 23, after it was taken from the university mail room.

While the package would have been privileged under ordinary circumstances, Holmes’ plea of insanity changed the status quo. By Colorado law, when anyone takes the insanity plea then past mental health treatment becomes part of the evidence.



However, the defense did not go down without a fight – they argued that the waiver of privilege should not apply in this particular case as the package never reached the doctor.

The judge was compelled to admire the “creativity” of the defense, but refused to accept their argument. He said, “If privilege applies then waiver applies.”

The defense filed 89 motions in total on Tuesday, and in one of them, it slipped out that Holmes was in a sufficient mentally stable condition to ask police officers immediately after his arrest, “How do I get a lawyer?” He was also in sufficient possession of his faculties to invoke the 6th Amendment and told officers that he was guaranteed legal representation.

The month of August would go in hearing the huge number of defense motions with requests ranging from changing the venue to sequestering all jurors and potential witnesses except Holmes’ parents.

Trial is set for February.



 

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