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Accused Colorado cinema gunman's lawyers want second sanity exam barred

Defense lawyers in the Colorado theater massacre case want a second court-ordered sanity examination undergone by accused gunman James Holmes barred from his upcoming murder trial, court documents on Thursday showed.

Public defenders filed "a motion to strike" or limit the opinions and testimony of the psychiatrist who conducted the testing. The disclosure was made in a ruling by the judge that suppressed the full contents of the pleading.

Holmes, 26, has pleaded not guilty by reason of insanity to shooting dead 12 moviegoers and wounding dozens in a suburban Denver cinema during a midnight screening of the Batman film "The Dark Knight Rises" in July 2012.

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.

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After invoking the insanity defense, Holmes underwent a mental examination last year, but Arapahoe County District Court Judge Carlos Samour ordered a second evaluation, siding with prosecutors who argued the first report was flawed.

The conclusions reached by both evaluators have not been made public.

While the contents of the latest defense motion are sealed, it suggests that the second evaluator deemed Holmes was sane when he went on the shooting rampage. Defense lawyers have said he was in the grips of a psychotic episode at the time.

Colorado defense lawyer and legal analyst Mark Johnson said since prosecutors rejected the first evaluation and the defense objected to the results of the second examination, it appears there is a split among the professionals about Holmes' sanity.

"It's certainly shaping up as a battle between the court-appointed experts," said Johnson, who is not involved in the case.

In a separate motion that was made public, the defense said statements Holmes made during the second evaluation should be withheld from jurors because they could violate his right against self-incrimination.

Defense lawyers noted in the pleading that prosecutors oppose that motion, although their formal response has not been filed.

Jury selection is set to begin in January, which Samour said last week could take up to four months.

Samour also told lawyers for both sides to be prepared to make their opening statements on June 3, and that the trial will last between four and five months.

 
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