UK & World News

  • 13 March 2013, 3:57

Aurora Shootings: Holmes 'Not Ready' To Plead

A judge has entered a not guilty plea on behalf of the student accused of a shooting spree at a Batman movie premiere that left 12 people dead.

Lawyers for James Holmes had told the court that they were not ready to enter his plea to the 166 counts he faces, including murder and attempted murder.

Judge William Sylvester scheduled Holmes's trial for August 5. Prosecutors will announce next month if they plan to seek the death penalty.

It had been expected that Holmes would plead not guilty by reason of insanity and the judge has left open the possibility that he could change his plea at a later date.

Holmes, 25, was arrested immediately after the shooting spree at a midnight showing of The Dark Night Rises at Aurora in Colorado on July 20 last year. Seventy people were injured.

He sat silently through Tuesday's proceedings, wearing a red prison jumpsuit and sporting a thick, bushy beard and unkempt dark brown hair.

His parents James and Arlene Holmes also sat silently at the front of the courtroom, looking up when he entered the court.

Survivors and relatives of the victims were also in court and some sighed when the defence asked for a further delay to the proceedings.

Judge Sylvester has already ruled that if Holmes enters an insanity plea he could face being administered with a "truth serum" as part of his medical evaluation.

His lawyers have claimed Colorado's laws on insanity pleas violate his rights under the constitution.

Craig Silverman, a former deputy district attorney for Denver, said: "I have been predicting delay after delay. Delay is the natural ally of any death penalty defendant. The longer the case drags out the longer the client is assured to stay alive."

The case, the worst in modern American history in terms of the number of people shot, prompted renewed debate about America's gun laws.

Politicians in Colorado have moved to put new restrictions in place within the state while the national effort to tighten the rules appears to have stalled.

Court documents have revealed that Holmes was held for "several days, frequently in restraints" in hospital in November after authorities said he was in need of immediate psychiatric help.

The same week he was rushed to the hospital after banging his head into a prison wall.