A judge on Tuesday entered a not guilty plea for James Holmes, after his attorneys said they were not ready to respond to charges that he opened fire on a Colorado theater, killing 12 people and injuring 70 more, according to the Denver Post.
The plea, entered by Judge William Sylvester at Holmes' arraignment, was unexpected after rising speculation that the suspect would plead not guilty by insanity. His lawyers had repeatedly brought his mental health into question in previous hearings. The Denver Post notes that Holmes could still change his plea later.
The 25-year-old grad school dropout was arraigned in Arapahoe County Court in Centennial. In his first public appearance in months, he had a shaggy beard and no trace of the orange hair dye made famous by his preliminary court date. Today, his trial was scheduled for Aug. 5, and there will be an April 1 hearing at which prosecutors will decide whether to seek the death penalty.
From the AP:
Prosecutors say plan to announce whether they'll seek the death penalty at an April 1 hearing.
He sat silently through Tuesday's proceedings and wore a red jail jumpsuit. He sported a thick, bushy beard and unkempt dark brown hair.
His parents, James and Arlene Holmes, sat silently at the front of the courtroom.
There is a long court battle and countless hearings ahead. Holmes is charged with 166 counts, including murder, attempted murder and assault.
Yesterday, Sylvester ruled that a not guilty by insanity plea would allow for a court-ordered mental evaluation, in which "truth serum" may be used, according to CBS News. A mixture of sodium amytal and pentothal, used to lower inhibitions so that psychologists might get a more accurate evaluation of a patient, has been employed for decades in the United States.
Prosecutors say that he methodically planned the attack at the midnight screening of "The Dark Knight Rises" months in advance and have pointed to his booby-trapped apartment as evidence of his thought-out scheme.
Holmes is accused of entering Theater 9 of the Century 16 multiplex with a ticket he bought 12 days prior, a gas mask and body armor. Armed with a shotgun, a pistol and a semi-automatic rifle, he allegedly threw a tear gas canister into the auditorium and unleashed a hail of bullets on moviegoers. He later surrendered to police without a struggle.
He was held in a psychiatric ward for days last fall.