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Insanity rulings made in theater shooting case

DENVER — The judge in the deadly Colorado theater shootings has denied a request by defense lawyers to declare a state law on the insanity plea unconstitutional.

In a ruling released Friday, state District Judge William Sylvester granted one defense request, for a written explanation of the consequences of pleading not guilty by reason of insanity.

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The ruling appears to clear the way for suspect James Holmes to enter a plea Tuesday. His lawyers had said they could not give Holmes effective advice on how to plead because of questions they had about the insanity law.

Holmes is accused of killing 12 people and injuring 70 people at a movie theater in Aurora on July 20. He faces murder and attempted murder charges. His attorneys have said they are considering entering an insanity plea on his behalf. That would have both benefits and risks for him.

If the jury finds him not guilty by reason of insanity, he would avoid prison or execution. Even though he could be sent to the state mental hospital indefinitely, he might be released someday if doctors find he is no longer insane. But under Colorado law, an insanity plea means prosecutors would have access to potentially incriminating evidence such as mental health records.

If Holmes simply pleads not guilty, prosecutors would not have access to that evidence. But that plea would remove the possibility of being committed to the mental hospital.

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