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Accused Colorado theater gunman gets more time for mental exam

By Keith Coffman

CENTENNIAL, Colo. (Reuters) - State psychiatrists evaluating the mental health of accused Colorado theater gunman James Holmes, charged with killing 12 moviegoers last summer, will get additional time to complete their examination, the judge in the murder case ruled on Tuesday.

The Colorado judge in the case of a former graduate student charged with killing moviegoers last summer said on Tuesday he would grant additional time sought by state psychiatrists to complete their mental evaluation of the accused gunman.

"I don't think I have a whole lot of choice," Arapahoe County District Judge Carlos Samour Jr. said during a hearing called after the head of the Colorado Mental Health Institute requested six extra weeks to complete its court-ordered examination of the defendant.

But Samour said he was inclined to stick with his original trial start date of February 2014 and to compress the calendar of pretrial motions and hearings to stay on schedule.

"I think I can still make it work," he said, ordering lawyers for both sides to review his proposed calendar revisions and let him know whether they had any objections.

Holmes, 25, is charged with multiple counts of first-degree murder and attempted murder stemming from a shooting spree in a suburban Denver multiplex last July during a midnight screening of the Batman film "The Dark Knight Rises."

The rampage killed 12 moviegoers and wounded 58 others.

Holmes has pleaded not guilty by reason of insanity, requiring him under state law to submit to an in-depth battery of psychiatric assessments before trial.

Prosecutors have said they would seek the death penalty for Holmes, a California native and onetime neuroscience doctoral student, if he is convicted.

William May, superintendent of the mental health institute, said in a letter to the judge that due to an "extraordinary amount of documentation" demanding review, his staff would need until mid-September to finish its examination of Holmes and its report.

The judge had originally set a July 31 deadline for completing the psychiatric evaluation and had set the month of August aside for hearings on dozens of pretrial pleadings, many of them dealing with the sanity exam. Those motions will now have to be heard later in the year.

Defense lawyers expressed concern on Tuesday about a shortened deadline for filing death penalty motions, but the judge assured them he would grant more time if necessary.

For his latest appearance in court, Holmes had his hair cut short and his shaggy beard trimmed, but as usual, he sat impassively during the 30-minute proceeding.

The judge was expected to post details of his revised pretrial schedule later in the day.

(Writing by Steve Gorman; Editing by Bernard Orr)

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