Judge orders second psych evaluation for James Holmes


AURORA | A judge ruled Wednesday that James Holmes should undergo further psychiatric tests and called the initial evaluation at the state mental hospital “incomplete and inadequate.”

Prosecutors had said last fall that they were not happy with some elements of the state’s evaluation and asked Judge Carlos Samour Jr. to allow a doctor of their choosing to reevaluate Holmes.

Holmes’ defense team objected to the request.

Samour held four days of closed-door hearings last month to hear argument on the matter. The press and public were barred from attending.

In his 51-page ruling unsealed Wednesday, Samour said while Holmes should undergo another evaluation, it should not be done by doctors of the prosecution’s choosing or by the doctor who did the first evaluation. Instead, he said officials at the Colorado Mental Health Institute at Pueblo should choose a different doctor to perform the evaluation.

Samour asked the prosecution and defense to schedule a hearing for next week where the two sides can discuss a new trial date. The trial was scheduled to start this spring but Samour canceled that trial date after prosecutors asked for further evaluation.

Samour said the second evaluation should focus on Holmes’ mental state at the time of the attacks, not on whether he is currently capable of understanding the court proceedings. It also shouldn’t touch on how his mental state could affect his eligibility for the death penalty, Samour wrote.

Even after Samour’s ruling, it remains unclear what doctors who conducted the initial evaluation found. The evaluation has been sealed since being delivered to the court last year, and the hearings where it was discussed in court were closed to the public.

Samour’s ruling was also heavily redacted, with any mention of what doctors determined blacked out.

In ruling that CMHIP should choose the doctor who evaluates Holmes, Samour said part of the reason was that the two doctors the prosecution wanted to use are being paid by the prosecution as consultants. The doctors are earning $300 and $400 per hour and one has already been paid more than $43,000, Samour wrote.

Samour said the initial doctor who evaluated Holmes was credible and was not biased as the prosecution contended. But because that doctor has developed a contentious relationship with prosecutors in light of their criticism, Samour said it wouldn’t be appropriate for him to conduct the second evaluation.

Samour set a deadline of July 11 for the new evaluation.

Holmes is accused of killing 12 and wounding 70 others during a July 2012 rampage at an Aurora movie theater. He has pleaded not guilty by reason of insanity. Prosecutors are seeking the death penalty.