Colorado Shooting Suspect Asks To Change To Plea


UPDATED: Monday May 13, 2013 5:57 PM

Lawyers for the Colorado theater shooting suspect say he wants to change his plea to not guilty by reason of insanity, but a judge won't rule on whether to allow that yet.
    
Attorney Daniel King made the request in court on Monday, saying they now have a diagnosis for James Holmes. He didn't specify what it was.
    
Holmes is charged with murder and attempted murder in the July 20 attack that killed 12 and injured 70 at a packed midnight showing of "The Dark Knight Rises" in Aurora.
    
The judge said he would consider arguments first about constitutional questions the defense has raised about Colorado's insanity law. He's expected to decide whether to accept a new plea sometime before a May 31 hearing.
    
Holmes had bushy hair and beard at Monday's hearing. He didn't speak at all.

HERE'S A LOOK AT WHERE THE CASE STANDS:

PREVIOUS PLEA

A judge entered a not guilty for Holmes in March after his lawyers said they weren't prepared to enter a plea yet. He said Holmes could change it later.

WHY CHANGE

Defense lawyers fear a wrinkle in Colorado law could cripple their ability to raise his mental health as a mitigating factor during the sentencing phase. They question the constitutionality of that law. Two judges have refused to rule on its constitutionality, saying the attorneys' objections were hypothetical because Holmes had not pleaded insanity. The defense had little choice but to have Holmes enter the plea and then challenge the law.

OTHER RISKS FOR THE DEFENSE

Holmes will have to submit to a mental evaluation by state-employed doctors, and prosecutors could use the findings against him.

RISKS FOR THE PROSECUTION

Prosecutors must convince jurors beyond a reasonable doubt that Holmes was sane. If they don't, state law requires the jury to find him not guilty by reason of insanity. If acquitted, Holmes would be committed to the state mental hospital indefinitely.

MENTAL EVALUATION

The mental evaluation could take weeks or months. Evaluators will interview Holmes, his friends and family, and if Holmes permits it, they'll also speak with mental health professionals who treated him in the past. Evaluators may give Holmes standardized personality tests and compare his results to those of people with documented mental illness. They will also look for any physical brain problems.

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