AURORA, Colorado, March 12 (Xinhua) -- Despite defense objections, the judge in the Colorado movie massacre entered a " not guilty" plea on behalf of shooting suspect James Holmes in a packed courtroom Tuesday, bringing the case closer to trial.
Arapahoe County District Court Judge William Sylvester's move paves the way for an April 1 announcement by prosecutors that they will be seeking the death penalty in the case.
"He (the judge) did all he could do," said criminal defense lawyer Craig Silverman, a former Denver prosecutor and death penalty expert. "They (defense lawyers) are doing everything they can to stall."
Holmes, 25, the former University of Colorado graduate student, sat silently beside his defense team during the 21-minute arraignment, who said repeatedly they needed more time.
Chief Deputy District Attorney Karen Pearson objected to delaying the arraignment, saying that 75 of 81 families wanted to move the case forward. The judge concurred, announcing a "one month" trial by jury to begin August 1.
Holmes, wearing a red jail jumpsuit and sporting a bushy, unkempt beard, faces 166 counts of murder and attempted murder in the mass shooting on July 20, 2012 that left 12 dead and 58 injured in one of the worst massacres in U.S. history.
Holmes' parents, James and Arlene Holmes, made an unusual court appearance, sitting quietly in the front of the courtroom. They left without comment.
Sylvester left open the defense option to change Holmes' plea to "not guilty by insanity" in the near future, the only way Holmes can avoid execution or life in prison.
"I'll be shocked if the trial begins this year,"said Silverman, who as a prosecutor secured a death conviction for a murderer currently on death row. "Other delays will happen."
The anticipated "insanity" plea will allow prosecutors access to Holmes' mental health records, which could help their case if the evidence of insanity is weak.
The insanity plea will be entered as early as the next hearing April 1, and will likely prolong proceedings further, while Holmes is evaluated by state mental health officials.
Monday, Sylvester issued a court order saying Holmes could be required to submit to a "narcoanalytic interview" whereby he might be given "truth serum" or a polygraph test.
Defense lawyers immediately filed documents opposing the proposed technique.
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