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Judge in Colorado theater massacre case appoints new sanity evaluator

Judge Carlos A. Samour Jr. speaks during a hearing for Aurora theater shooting suspect James Holmes at the Arapahoe County Justice Center in
Judge Carlos A. Samour Jr. speaks during a hearing for Aurora theater shooting suspect James Holmes at the Arapahoe County Justice Center in

By Keith Coffman

DENVER (Reuters) - A judge overseeing the Colorado movie theater massacre case appointed an evaluator on Tuesday to conduct a second sanity examination of accused gunman James Holmes after earlier ruling a first evaluation to be "incomplete and inadequate."

Arapahoe County District Court Judge Carlos Samour, in a written ruling, approved the selection by the state mental hospital of the new examiner, whose name was redacted in the order.

Holmes has pleaded not guilty by reason of insanity to murder and attempted murder charges linked to the 2012 shooting during a viewing of a Batman film in a suburban Denver cinema that killed 12 moviegoers and injured 70 others. Prosecutors said they will seek the death penalty if Holmes is convicted.

Defense lawyers concede that the 26-year-old former neuroscience doctoral student was the sole gunman, but said he suffers from a chronic mental illness and was psychotic at the time of the rampage.

After invoking the insanity defense, Holmes underwent a first sanity examination last summer. It was disclosed in court in December that the exam concluded Holmes was mentally fit, or competent, to stand trial, meaning he was capable of understanding the proceedings and assisting in his defense.

The original exam's finding as to his sanity at the time of the massacre has not been publicly revealed, but prosecutors sought the second evaluation after what they said were "numerous deficiencies" in the report by forensic psychiatrist Jeffrey Metzner.

Samour agreed with prosecutors and ordered the second evaluation following a series of closed-door hearings in January. The second evaluation must be submitted to the court by July 11, Samour ruled.

The second court-ordered exam will focus on Holmes' state of mind at the time of the killings, not on his competency to stand trial. The trial date has been postponed twice as legal issues have been litigated, and is now set to begin on October 14.

(Editing by Cynthia Johnston and G Crosse)

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