The man accused of shooting 70 people in an Aurora, Colorado, movie theater last summer was given an automatic not guilty plea in court today, but is holding off on claiming the insanity defense for now. Lawyers for shooting suspect James Holmes were supposed to enter an official plea today, but said they were not ready to do so and asked for more time. Judge William Sylvester entered an automatic not guilty plea, against the defense team's objections, but said they can still change it not guilty by reason of insanity at a later time.
Holmes was arraigned on Tuesday on 166 counts of murder and attempted murder for the shooting that killed 12 people and injured 58 more. The delay is likely to frustrate victims and their families who have been waiting more than seven months for this trial to get underway, yet is still a long way from being resolved. Reports from inside the courtroom said that family members "sighed in unison" when the defense lawyers asked for a delay.
Even if Holmes had entered his insanity plea, as he was expected to do, it still would have led to several more months of psychiatric evaluation before any trial could start. Sylvester ruled yesterday that the evaluation can include a "narcoanalytic interview," where Holmes would be given "truth serum" and then administered a lie detector test. Doctors can also compel him to take other psychiatric drugs to control his mood and behavior, even though those drugs can complicate any attempts to diagnose his true state of mind. The automatic plea was meant to keep the case moving forward, but continued testing and evaluation will only drag things out further.
This was the first public appearance for Holmes in several months and his appearance has changed slightly. He looks to have not shaved or cut his hair since being arrested, and images seem to show him with the same look of bewilderment (or drug-induced haze) that we've seen in previous court appearances.