Aurora Theater Shooting
– In a strange turn of events, Aurora Theater Shooting suspect, James Holmes, and his criminal attorneys refused to enter a plea at his arraignment this morning. The hearing began strangely when Holmes’ attorneys were late to court due to the inclement weather. The hearing ended up being delayed for 30 minutes as the Court waited for their arrival.
Once the attorneys arrived and Mr. Holmes was brought into the courtroom, things got even stranger. When asked for the defendant’s plea, defense attorneys informed Arapahoe County, Colorado Judge William Sylvester that their client was not prepared to enter any plea. Mr. Holmes is accused of murdering 12 people and injuring 58 others at an Aurora, Colorado theater on July 20, 2012.
It was expected that Mr. Holmes would enter a “not guilty by reason of insanity” plea at the hearing. Defense attorney though notified the judge that they were not yet prepared to do so. They requested that the Judge give them more time to research the legal consequences of an insanity plea and to have more mental health testing done on Mr. Holmes. Judge Sylvester refused the request and entered a plea on Mr. Holmes’ behalf; “not guilty.” The Judge did suggest that he would be open to a defense request later on down the road to change the plea to that of “not guilty by reason of insanity.” This seems to leave open the strong probability that this is where the Aurora Shooting Case is going.
Defense attorneys indicated that they could not ethically enter a plea for Mr. Holmes. This probably means that they feel that they are unable to fully advise their client of his options and explain to him the consequences of any decisions that are made. It is probably also a reference to the fact that they are not sure that they can make a “not guilty by reason of insanity” plea. In other words, they may not have the evidence necessary to meet the requirements of such a plea. That possibility is supported by the request for more time to do additional mental health testing.
A hearing was also scheduled for April 1, 2013 for prosecutors to announce whether or not they will be seeking the death penalty for Mr. Holmes. It is our belief that they will.
Jessica Ridgeway Murder
– In Jefferson County, Colorado, the District Court Judge overseeing the Austin Sigg murder case granted a defense request that the arraignment be postponed for 30 days. Sigg’s criminal defense attorneys asked for the postponement so that they would have more time to investigate and prepare their defense strategy.
It is quite common for an initial arraignment to be postponed for criminal matters in Colorado. Defense attorneys will often move the court to continue the initial arraignment for more time to investigate, advise their client, and/or prepare. In this particular situation, it is our belief that defense attorneys are merely stalling in an attempt to push the trial date as far back as possible. This too is a common defense strategy. Especially in cases where there is no real viable defense. It provides more time for witnesses to disappear, make inconsistent statements, or recant their statements altogether. In cases that are attracting a lot of media attention, often a long delay will cause the media attention to abate by the time trial rolls around. That is unlikely in the Sigg case, however, as the kidnapping and murder of 10 year old Jessica Ridgeway has gained the attention of the entire state of Colorado.
There is little doubt that Sigg’s lawyers will be entering a not guilty plea on his behalf at his new arraignment on April 12th.