CENTENNIAL, Colo. (AP) - A judge on Tuesday accepted James Holmes' plea of not guilty by reason of insanity, setting the stage for a lengthy mental evaluation of the Colorado theater shooting suspect.
The court clerk placed a written advisory of the ground rules of the plea before Holmes so he could examine it as Judge Carlos Samour Jr. read through all 18 points.
When Samour asked if he had any questions, Holmes replied no. Samour then accepted the plea.
"I find Mr. Holmes understands the effects and consequences of the not guilty by reason of insanity plea," the judge said. "He was looking at the advisement and appeared to be following along."
Holmes is accused of opening fire in a packed Denver-area movie theater last summer, killing 12 people and injuring 70. He is charged with multiple counts of murder and attempted murder, and prosecutors are seeking the death penalty.
Holmes' lawyers repeatedly have said he is mentally ill, but they delayed the insanity plea while arguing state laws were unconstitutional. They said the laws could hobble the defense if Holmes' case should ever reach the phase where the jury decides if he should be executed.
The judge rejected that argument last week.
Hundreds of people were watching a midnight showing of "The Dark Knight Rises" at the Aurora theater when the shooting occurred July 20.
The dead included a Navy veteran who threw himself in front of his friends to shield them, an aspiring sports journalist who had survived a mall shooting just two months earlier, and a 6-year-old girl.
Prosecutors say Holmes spent months buying weapons, ammunition and materials for explosives and scouted the theater in advance. He donned police-style body armor, tossed a gas canister into the seats and opened fire, they say.
The insanity plea is widely seen as Holmes' best chance of avoiding execution, and possibly his only chance, given the weight of the evidence against him.
But his lawyers delayed it for weeks, saying Colorado's laws on the insanity plea and the death penalty could work in combination to violate his constitutional rights.
The laws state that if Holmes does not cooperate with doctors conducting a mandatory mental evaluation, he would lose the right to call expert witnesses to testify about his sanity during the penalty phase of his trial. Defense lawyers argued that is an unconstitutional restriction on his right to build a defense. They also contended the law doesn't define cooperation.
Samour rejected those arguments last week and said the laws are constitutional.
The next step is an evaluation of Holmes by state doctors to determine whether he was insane at the time of the shootings. That could take months.
Colorado law defines insanity as the inability to distinguish right from wrong caused by a diseased or defective mind.
If jurors find Holmes not guilty by reason of insanity, he would be committed indefinitely to the state mental hospital. He could eventually be released if doctors find his sanity has been restored, but that is considered unlikely.
If jurors convict him, the next step is the penalty phase, during which both sides call witnesses to testify about factors that could affect why Holmes should or shouldn't be executed.
The jury would then decide whether Holmes should be executed or sentenced to life in prison without possibility of parole.
If jurors impose the death penalty, it would trigger court appeals and open other possibilities that would take years to resolve.
Copyright 2013 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.
It's been a year since FBI agents and police raided several homes in Fort Wayne. The center of the investigation was Michael Fabini's home.
Contrary to popular belief, poinsettias are not toxic to humans or pets. Some mild side effects are possible if they are eaten.
A Fort Wayne man had the opportunity to have lunch with Nelson Mandela 20 years ago. He says the experience is something he has carried with him throughout the years.
The suspects face bank robbing charges, as well as charges of assaulting and putting in jeopardy the lives of others.
The yellow brick building that served for decades as the club house for the Elks Lodge 155 golf course in Fort Wayne is being demolished.
Buffalo Wild Wings donated $6,500 to the Boys & Girls Club's Fairfield location on Friday afternoon. The money will be used for youth sports tournaments.
A new event promises 12 days of delicious deals at Fort Wayne restaurants in January.
A woman arrested for shoplifting at a Fort Wayne Walmart identified herself as her husband's ex-wife when she was actually the man's current wife. The ex-wife then ended up getting arrested when the real wife failed to show up for court.
Gov. Mike Pence has ordered flags at Indiana state facilities to be flown at half-staff in tribute of Nelson Mandela and is asking businesses and residents to do so also to honor the world leader.
A big chunk of the U.S. is getting a blast of wintry weather. Some areas are experiencing frigid temperatures. Some are seeing snow and ice. Several deaths have been reported, most resulting from treacherous driving conditions. Hundreds of…
Frigid temperatures and a cold Saint Joseph River didn't stop approximately 100 students from jumping into the river as part of Homecoming Week at IPFW.
The Salvation Army and Toys for Tots are seeing a decline in donations this year because of a late Thanksgiving.
Global civil rights icon Nelson Mandela, whose legacy is ending South African apartheid, has died.
Fort Wayne is not expected to take the brunt of an approaching winter weather system, but everyone will experience frigid temperatures and some could see sleet and snow.
Thieves hit an Indianapolis home this week, stealing a large nativity scene from the front yard.