Second sanity exam of accused Colorado cinema gunman completed

By Keith Coffman

(Reuters) - The sealed results of a second sanity examination of accused Colorado theater gunman James Holmes, which could determine if the long-delayed trial will begin this year, were submitted on Wednesday, a court document shows.

Holmes underwent a court-ordered psychiatric test last year after pleading not guilty by reason of insanity to shooting dead 12 moviegoers and wounding dozens more inside a suburban Denver cinema in July 2012 during a midnight viewing of the Batman film "The Dark Knight Rises."

Arapahoe County District Court Judge Carlos Samour ordered further psychological testing in February after ruling the first evaluation was deficient.

Samour said in a notice to prosecutors and defense attorneys on Wednesday that the new 53-page report and videotaped interviews of Holmes were ready for their review.

The report could trigger more litigation, potentially delaying the trial beyond its scheduled December start date, said Colorado defense lawyer and legal analyst Mark Johnson.

"This could provoke a valid motion by either side to seek a continuance for more investigation if it is contrary to the first evaluation," he said. "The sanity determination is the centerpiece of this entire case."

Prosecutors have charged Holmes with multiple counts of first-degree murder and attempted murder, and said they will seek the death penalty for the California native if he is convicted.

Lawyers for Holmes have acknowledged that the 26-year-old former neuroscience graduate was the lone shooter, but claim he was in the throes of a psychotic episode at the time.

While defense lawyers have challenged nearly every piece of evidence amassed against their client, the case hinges on whether Holmes knew right from wrong when he went on the rampage.

Under Colorado's insanity defense law, prosecutors must prove beyond a reasonable doubt that a defendant was not insane at the time of the crime.

The results of the first evaluation have not been made public, but prosecutors sought a second psychiatric examination, arguing that the first one was incomplete and inadequate.

Samour sided with prosecutors and ordered further testing, over the objections of defense lawyers who unsuccessfully appealed to the Colorado Supreme Court.