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Colorado theater rampage suspect called mentally ill

CENTENNIAL, Colo. — Lawyers for Colorado theater shooting suspect James Holmes formally told a judge on Monday he wants to change his plea to not guilty by reason of insanity after outside experts diagnosed his mental illness.

The attorneys, however, did not specify the diagnosis. Judge Carlos Samour Jr. indicated he would not decide whether to approve the new plea until the end of the month.

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A judge entered a standard not guilty plea on Holmes’s behalf in March, and he needs court permission to change it.

Holmes is charged with more than 160 counts of murder and attempted murder in the July 20 shootings that left 12 people dead and 70 injured.

Prosecutors are seeking the death penalty, and the insanity plea is widely seen as Holmes’s best chance to avoid execution.

No motive has emerged in nearly 10 months of hearings, but Holmes’s attorneys have repeatedly said he is mentally ill. He was being treated by a psychiatrist before the attack, but the reason for the treatment hasn’t been disclosed.

Before Samour decides on the change of plea, he must rule on questions raised by the defense about the constitutionality of Colorado’s insanity and death penalty laws.

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