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Colo. shooting suspect James Holmes must be drugged to claim insanity, judge says

- The Washington Times - Tuesday, March 12, 2013

If defense attorneys want to claim use an insanity defense for Colorado shooting suspect James Holmes, they must first agree to drug him for a psychiatric examination, a judge ruled.

Mr. Holmes, accused of a July shooting rampage at a movie theater that left 12 dead and 58 injured, is due to be arraigned on Tuesday. But in order to plead guilty by reason of insanity — a move that could make it more difficult for prosecutors to seek and obtain the death penalty — Circuit Judge William Sylvester ruled that he must submit to a state exam.

"There are a few reasons [prosecutors] wouldn't go for the death penalty — the most important one being his mental state," said David Beller, an attorney who's not connected to the case, in a CNN report. "The Supreme Court, and really society, has been very clear: We don't execute people who are mentally ill."

Under the judge's order, Mr. Holmes would have to turn over all his medical history to the psychiatrist who is appointed to test him for sanity, and undergo doctors' administration of "such drugs as are medically appropriate" to ensure he is lucid enough to speak clearly, NBC reported.

Mr. Holmes is trying to enter an insanity plea to 166 felony counts that include murder and attempted murder, NBC says. His lawyers have objected to Mr. Sylvester's ruling, claiming it violates his right to maintain medical privacy. They also object to the administration of drugs on a constitutional basis, NBC reports.

His sanity is expected to be the top topic of discussion at the arraignment, court officials say.

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