CENTENNIAL, Colo. – A Colorado judge has postponed the death penalty trial for movie theater shooter James Holmes so that Holmes' attorneys can have more time to evaluate a second report on their client's sanity.
Judge Carlos A. Samour wrote in a Monday ruling that jury selection will start Jan. 20. It had been set for Dec. 8.
The new schedule won't unnecessarily delay the case but gives Holmes' attorneys time to analyze the second sanity exam and prepare for trial, Samour wrote in the order. Jury selection could take months, with opening statements to begin in early June, as previously expected.
Holmes, 26, a former graduate student in neuroscience, pleaded not guilty by reason of insanity to charges of killing 12 people and injuring 70 in the July 20, 2012, attack.
More than 400 people were watching a midnight showing of "The Dark Knight Rises" in the theater in the Denver suburb of Aurora at the time. Holmes' lawyers acknowledge he was the shooter but argue he was in the grips of a psychotic episode.
Prosecutors are seeking the death penalty. They did not object to a short delay but did note that many victims opposed one.
This is Holmes' fifth trial date. The first date, in August 2013, was canceled after prosecutors said they would seek the death penalty, raising numerous issues that had to be resolved before trial. The second, in February, was scratched after prosecutors asked for the second sanity evaluation.
The third was Oct. 14, which the judge postponed to Dec. 8 after the doctor conducting the second evaluation requested an extension.
Defense attorneys sought the latest delay so they could have more time to study the second sanity evaluation, which they said includes 22 hours of interviews with Holmes.
He underwent a mandatory sanity evaluation last year, but the key finding — whether he could tell right from wrong — was not released. Samour ordered the second sanity evaluation in January, after prosecutors said the doctor who conducted the first one was biased. Samour agreed it was flawed.
The evaluation is not the final word on whether Holmes was insane, but it is a key piece of evidence jurors will consider when making that determination.
Findings of Holmes' sanity evaluations have not been released.