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Lawyers return to court to argue evidence in Colorado massacre case

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[January 31, 2014]  By Keith Coffman

DENVER (Reuters)  Public defenders representing accused Colorado theater shooter James Holmes will return to court on Friday to challenge evidence based on the crime scene analysis from the cineplex where 12 moviegoers were killed.

Holmes, 26, is charged with multiple counts of first-degree murder and attempted murder for opening fire inside a suburban Denver cinema during a screening of the Batman film "The Dark Knight Rises" in July 2012.

The mass shooting left 12 people dead and 70 wounded by bullets or otherwise injured in the melee. Holmes has pleaded not guilty by reason of insanity, and prosecutors said they will seek the death penalty if he is convicted.

The hearing in Arapahoe County District Court on Friday centers on proposed testimony by crime scene experts who prosecutors intend to call at trial.

"Mr. Holmes objects to the admission of any and all opinion testimony concerning crime scene reconstruction, including ... any blood spatter analysis and bullet trajectory analysis that the prosecution intends to introduce at trial through any 'expert' witness," his attorneys said in court papers.


Holmes' attorneys argue such testimony is unreliable.

The proceeding follows four days of closed-door hearings held this week on whether Holmes should undergo a further sanity examination.

Defense lawyers have conceded that Holmes was the sole gunman, but have said he was in the midst of a "psychotic episode" when he went on the shooting spree.

They also said in court filings that Holmes suffers from a "chronic and serious mental illness" and should not face the death penalty should a jury convict him.

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After invoking the insanity plea, the former neuroscience graduate student underwent a court-ordered sanity examination last summer. Conclusions reached by evaluators have not been made public, but in November prosecutors sought to have Holmes undergo an additional evaluation by their experts.

The murder trial was set to begin next month, but was postponed indefinitely by Arapahoe County District Court Judge Carlos Samour after prosecutors filed the request.

In ordering this week's sanity hearings closed to the public, Samour said dissemination of testimony about the sanity evaluations would jeopardize Holmes' right to a fair trial.

"The information that will be discussed at this hearing goes to the heart of the case," Samour said.

It is unknown when he will rule on the prosecution request.

(Editing by Alex Dobuzinskis and Lisa Shumaker)

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