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October trial date set for accused Colorado theater gunman

James Holmes sits in court for an advisement hearing at the Arapahoe County Justice Center in Centennial, Colorado June 4, 2013. REUTERS/And
James Holmes sits in court for an advisement hearing at the Arapahoe County Justice Center in Centennial, Colorado June 4, 2013. REUTERS/And

By Keith Coffman

CENTENNIAL, Colo. (Reuters) - A Colorado judge on Thursday set a new trial date in October for James Holmes, the former neuroscience graduate student accused of killing 12 moviegoers in a shooting spree at a suburban Denver cinema in 2012.

Arapahoe County District Court Judge Carlos Samour set the October 14 date after a previous February timeframe was vacated because of ongoing legal wrangling over Holmes' sanity and other issues.

Holmes, 26, has pleaded not guilty by reason of insanity to multiple counts of first-degree murder and attempted murder stemming from the July 2012 shooting spree that left 12 people dead and 70 others injured.

Defense lawyers have conceded that Holmes, a California native, was the lone gunman, but have argued that their client was suffering a psychotic episode when he went on the rampage during a screening of a Batman film.

Prosecutors have said they will seek the death penalty if they secure a conviction, although their ability to pursue that penalty could be tied to the results of court-ordered mental evaluations.

Holmes underwent a court-ordered psychiatric examination last summer. The results have mostly been kept confidential, but prosecutors sought a second evaluation because they said the first had "numerous deficiencies."

Last week, the judge ruled that the first examination of Holmes, a one-time University of Colorado doctoral candidate, was "incomplete and inadequate" and ordered a new evaluation. But he denied a request by government lawyers that they be allowed to select the new evaluator.

The second exam will focus on Holmes' state of mind at the time of the killings. An independent psychiatrist or forensic psychologist, who has yet to be appointed, must submit a report no later than July 11.

Samour set a series of court hearings over two weeks in late April and early May to discuss motions filed by Holmes' attorneys that relate to the death penalty. Samour also said the new trial date was flexible and could be postponed if unforeseen issues arise.

(Reporting by Keith Coffman; Additional writing by Sharon Bernstein; Editing by Alex Dobuzinskis and Gunna Dickson)

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