Lawyers for accused Colorado gunman barred from psychiatric exam

By Reuters
Thursday, June 20, 2013 7:08 EDT
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James Holmes sits in court for an advisement hearing at the Arapahoe County Justice Center in Centennial
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By Keith Coffman

DENVER (Reuters) - Lawyers for James Holmes, who has pleaded not guilty by reason of insanity to killing 12 moviegoers in a Colorado theater last year, cannot be present during his court-ordered psychiatric examination, the judge in the murder case ruled on Wednesday.

Arapahoe County District judge Carlos Samour Jr. rejected a motion by Holmes’ public defenders, who argued that they should be allowed to attend the exam – especially since prosecutors are seeking the death penalty against their client.

Under Colorado law, any incriminating information divulged by the defendant during such an exam can be used against the accused at his trial and sentencing.

Holmes, 25, is accused of opening fire last July inside a suburban Denver movie theater during a midnight screening of the Batman film “The Dark Knight Rises.”

Twelve moviegoers were killed, 58 others were wounded by gunfire and another dozen suffered other injuries as they fled the multiplex. Holmes is charged with multiple counts of first-degree murder and attempted murder.

Prosecutors argued that there is no right under Colorado law for the defense team to attend the sanity examination, and that the clinician conducting the evaluation had said the presence of other people could skew the results.

Although Samour said he “understands the defense’s misgivings,” he agreed with prosecutors.

“Allowing defense counsel and an investigator to attend the sanity examination would almost inevitably interfere with the examination and undermine the validity of the examination,” he wrote.

However, in a separate ruling, the judge did grant a request by Holmes’ lawyers for permission to review a videotape taken last November while Holmes was hospitalized after jail officials had deemed he was a threat to himself.

(Editing by Steve Gorman and David Brunnstrom)

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