James Holmes sits in Arapahoe County District Court in Denver, Colorado on February 11, 2015, in this courtroom sketch. Lawyers in the murder trial of Colorado theater gunman Holmes are set to begin individual questioning of prospective jurors in the death-penalty case on Wednesday, a process scheduled to take four months to complete. REUTERS/Bill Robles (UNITED STATES - Tags: CRIME LAW) NO SALES. NO ARCHIVES. FOR EDITORIAL USE ONLY. NOT FOR SALE FOR MARKETING OR ADVERTISING CAMPAIGNS
By Keith Coffman
CENTENNIAL, Colo. (Reuters) - The trial of accused Colorado theater gunman James Holmes was postponed indefinitely on Thursday to deal with requests by prosecutors for further mental health evaluations of the former doctoral student, a judge ruled on Thursday.
Holmes, a former neuroscience graduate student, had been slated to go on trial in February for the July 2012 slayings of 12 moviegoers and the wounding of 70 others during a screening of a Batman film at a suburban Denver cinema.
But Arapahoe County District Court Judge Carlos Samour vacated that trial date on Thursday. Prosecutors, who would seek the death penalty if Holmes is convicted, want him to be evaluated by two experts for limited purposes, which the defense opposes.
"It is virtually unheard of, what is being requested," defense lawyer Tamara Brady told the judge.
Holmes, 25, has pleaded not guilty by reason of insanity to multiple counts of first-degree murder and attempted murder, and has already been subjected to a court-ordered examination at a state mental health hospital. The conclusions reached by evaluators have not been released publicly.
Public defenders have said in previous court filings that Holmes was in the midst of "a psychotic episode" when he went on the shooting rampage and has been hospitalized for mental health issues at least twice since his arrest.
They have also said that he should not be executed if convicted for murder because he suffers from a chronic mental illness.
(Reporting by Keith Coffman; Editing By Cynthia Johnston and Gunna Dickson)