CENTENNIAL, Colo. -- James E. Holmes, accused of carrying out the Aurora movie theater massacre that killed 12 and injured 70 last summer, is expected to plead not guilty by reason of insanity in court Monday, his defense lawyers have said in a court filing.
The plea has long been anticipated as Holmes’ lawyers have repeatedly described him as “severely mentally ill.” The expected plea is Holmes' best hope of avoiding a possible death penalty in the rampage.
By law, Holmes cannot be put to death if he is deemed insane or suffering a mental defect.
Monday's court hearing comes after months of intense legal wrangling over the constitutionality of the insanity defense in Colorado.
Last month, a visibly annoyed Judge William Sylvester of Colorado’s 18th Judicial District entered a not guilty plea on Holmes’ behalf after defense attorneys said they were not ready to make a decision. Sylvester told defense lawyers they could change the plea to not guilty by reason of insanity at a later date but would have to show cause.
Since then Sylvester has stepped aside and been replaced by Judge Carlos A. Samour Jr.
Holmes is charged with 166 counts of first-degree murder, attempted murder and weapons charges for the July 20 rampage. He is accused of opening fire during a packed premiere of “The Dark Knight Rises.” He faces the death penalty if found guilty.