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James Holmes' mental health to be debated in 2014

Part of a series: Crimesider's cases to watch in 2014

One of the most shocking crimes of recent years -- the Aurora, Colo., movie theater massacre -- will be back in the headlines in early 2014.

James Holmes is accused of killing 12 people and injuring 70 when he opened fire in a crowded showing of the Batman sequel, "The Dark Knight Rises," in Aurora, Colo., in July 2012. He has pleaded not guilty by reason of insanity. Prosecutors are seeking the death penalty.

Holmes’ trial was scheduled to begin in February 2014, but it was postponed while prosecutors argue that they should be allowed to have their own experts examine the defendant. Holmes already underwent a mandatory sanity evaluation last summer. The results have not been made public.

CBS News legal analyst Rikki Klieman told Crimesider the case will boil down to whether the defense can prove Holmes has a mental disease or defect, and if so, whether he was unable tell right from wrong at the time of the shooting.

“It seems the considered opinion is that he has a mental disease or defect – but can [the defense] make the link and show that that mental disease caused him, or was a substantial contributor, to his not being able to control his conduct or conform his conduct to the requirements of law?” Klieman said.

 Holmes’ lawyers acknowledge he was the shooter but argue that he was in the grips of a psychotic episode at the time.

If jurors decide Holmes was insane, he would be committed indefinitely to the state mental hospital. If they decide he was sane and convict him of first-degree murder, he could receive the death penalty or life in prison without the possibility of parole, according to the Associated Press.

A pretrial hearing in which the prosecution’s request for more psychiatric testing will be argued is scheduled to start Jan. 27. The public and the news media have been barred from the hearing, citing concern that testimony in regards to Holmes’ sanity could impede his right to a fair trial.


  • Stephanie Slifer

    Stephanie Slifer covers crime and justice for CBSNews.com.

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