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Fight over psych evaluation could decide if Holmes lives, dies

James Holmes case

CENTENNIAL, Colo. — Aurora theater shooter James Holmes is back in court Monday for a closed hearing on whether he should undergo a second psychiatric evaluation – a decision that could literally determine whether the mass killer lives or dies.

Holmes’ lawyers have already acknowledged that he was the attacker in the July 2012 incident, which killed 12 people and injured 70. Holmes pleaded not guilty by reason of insanity and underwent a court-ordered psychiatric evaluation at the Colorado state hospital.

Those results haven’t been made public, but prosecutors have publicly accused the doctor who evaluated Holmes was biased. Now they want one of their own experts to evaluate the defendant.

Starting today, the two sides will try to work out whether Homes will undergo a second, presumably more prosecution-friendly evaluation.

If Holmes is found to be insane, he would be committed to mental hospitals until he is deemed sane. If he is found to be of sound mind and convicted, he will probably be executed or sentenced to life in prison.

So why is it taking so long? With these stakes, the two sides are fighting over virtually every new piece of evidence, not knowing what might nudge a jury in their favor.

If the prosecution is not able to get their second evaluation (and assuming that the first evaluation did in fact find Holmes to be insane), experts believe the prosecution might settle for a plea deal sending Holmes to prison rather than continuing to press for the death penalty.