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5 things to know about new sanity exam for Holmes

By Dan Elliott, Associated Press - Updated: February 20, 2014 at 7:39 am

DENVER — James Holmes, the man accused of killing 12 people in a Colorado movie theater, was ordered Wednesday to undergo a second sanity evaluation. Five things to know about the order:

1. ANOTHER DELAY: The report on the second evaluation isn't due until July 11, meaning a months-long delay in the case, which has already been in the courts for a year and a half. The long wait isn't surprising. In a death-penalty case where the defendant pleads insanity, multiple hearings are required to resolve complex legal questions.

2. WHY ANOTHER EVALUATION: The judge ruled the first was "incomplete and inadequate," that it was based on insufficient data and that it reached some unsupported conclusions. But nearly half the 50-page ruling was redacted, so some specifics aren't known.

3. WHAT DID THE FIRST EVALUATION SAY? The key finding hasn't been made public: Whether Holmes was sane at the time of the July 2012 attack, which killed 12 people and injured 70. But prosecutors asked for the second evaluation, claiming the first was flawed. Legal analysts say that could mean the first evaluation found Holmes had a mental illness or defect, but how severe isn't known.

4. WHY IT'S IMPORTANT: Holmes' fate likely hangs on whether jurors decide he was sane or insane at the time of the shootings. If they determine he couldn't tell right from wrong, he would be acquitted and sent to the state hospital indefinitely. If they find he was incapable of forming intent to commit the crimes, he could still be convicted, but not of a crime that requires deliberation, and probably not one that carries the death penalty, analysts say. If jurors decide he was sane, he could be convicted of first-degree murder and sentenced either to be executed or to spend life in prison without parole.

5. WHAT'S NEXT: The judge ordered the state mental hospital to choose another psychiatrist or psychologist by March 10, and the second evaluation would begin sometime after that. The judge said the first evaluation took nearly three months, with the psychiatrist interviewing Holmes for 25 hours.

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Follow Dan Elliott at http://twitter.com/DanElliottAP

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