Judge: Colorado theatre shooting suspect’s statements about bombs can be used against him

Dan Elliott, The Associated Press 0

DENVER – Most of the statements defendant James Holmes made to investigators about explosives found in his apartment can be used against him, even though he was denied access to an attorney at the time of the interrogation, a judge ruled Thursday.

What Holmes told the investigators hasn’t been made public, but his statements could give prosecutors more evidence to argue he wasn’t insane, as he claims, when the deadly shootings were planned and executed.

Arapahoe County District Judge Carlos A. Samour Jr. said police were justified in questioning Holmes without a defence attorney present because the explosives were a threat to human life and officers urgently needed to know about them.

Samour also said Holmes spoke to the investigators voluntarily, without coercion.

Holmes pleaded not guilty by reason of insanity to charges of killing 12 people and injuring 70 in the July 2012 assault at a suburban Denver theatre, where hundreds were watching a midnight showing of the Batman movie “The Dark Knight Rises.” Prosecutors are seeking the death penalty.

Holmes, who was arrested outside the theatre immediately after the shootings, was questioned at the scene and again at a police station. Then, about 14 hours after the shootings, a police officer and FBI agent questioned him again as bomb experts tried to figure out how to defuse a web of homemade explosives and triggers in his apartment.

Holmes repeatedly asked for a lawyer before the interrogation began, and an attorney hired by Holmes’ mother to represent him told police that officers could not speak with Holmes. Defence attorneys said in testimony and court motions that they tried for hours to meet with Holmes but were denied by police and jail officials.

Samour acknowledged those attempts in his 126-page ruling, but said the officers were justified in speaking with Holmes anyway.

“Ultimately, the defendant’s Fifth Amendment right against self-incrimination was not violated,” he wrote.

Samour barred prosecutors from using five passages from a transcript of the 38-minute interrogation unless Holmes testifies in his own defence. If that happens, prosecutors could use those passages to dispute his testimony, the judge said.

It wasn’t immediately clear what those passages said.

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