Holmes lawyers again challenge death penalty


Associated Press

Posted on August 16, 2013 at 6:36 PM

Updated Friday, Aug 16 at 7:33 PM

DENVER (AP) — Lawyers for Colorado theater shooting suspect James Holmes are again arguing that the state's death penalty law is unconstitutional.

In motions filed Friday, defense lawyers say the law doesn't set clear standards and makes it too hard for jurors to weigh mitigating factors when they deliberate whether to impose the death penalty.

Holmes' lawyers also argue that defendants who choose trial by jury are allowed fewer options to appeal the death penalty than those who choose trial before a judge, without a jury. The defense says that's unconstitutional.

Holmes is accused of killing 12 people and injuring 70 in July 2012. He pleaded not guilty by reason of insanity, and prosecutors are seeking the death penalty.

In May, the judge rejected defense arguments that the death penalty law could unfairly cripple the insanity defense.

THIS IS A BREAKING NEWS UPDATE. Check back soon for further information. AP's earlier story is below.

The judge in the Colorado theater shootings case denied a defense motion seeking the mental health records of prosecution witnesses, bluntly dismissing it Friday as a "fishing expedition."

Arapahoe County District Judge Carlos A. Samour Jr. denied 12 defense motions seeking a raft of records, including tapes of police communications on the day of the shootings, and all statements that victims and witnesses made to police.

James Holmes is accused of killing 12 people and injuring 70 in a suburban Denver movie theater in July 2012 and faces multiple counts of murder and attempted murder. He has pleaded not guilty by reason of insanity.

Prosecutors are seeking the death penalty.

Prosecutors and the defense have filed more than 180 pretrial motions, with more on the way. Samour is rejecting some, accepting some and scheduling hearings on others.

In denying the defense request for mental health records of prosecution witnesses, Samour said Holmes' lawyers don't know whether any of the witnesses have received mental health treatment, whether any records of the treatments exist and whether the records are relevant to the trial.

"In other words, the defendant wants the court to approve a fishing expedition," Samour wrote. "The court declines the invitation to do so."

He also said Holmes' lawyers have fought the release of Holmes' own records on the grounds of psychiatrist-patient privilege.

Samour also denied defense motions seeking all prosecution records of communications with victims, unredacted copies of documents the federal Department of Homeland Security sent to prosecutors, all written communication among the law enforcement agencies that investigated the shootings, and lists of tips that investigators received.

Samour granted one defense request asking for information on the credibility of prosecution witnesses. He noted prosecutors didn't submit any arguments opposing that motion.

Samour also granted a prosecution motion asking to inspect reports or statements that defense experts have made and ordering the defense to disclose the facts supporting defense experts' opinions.


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