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Mar 122013

Arapahoe County Sheriff’s Office(DENVER) — James Holmes will be in a Colorado courtroom on Tuesday, where he is expected to enter a plea to charges stemming from the deadly shooting massacre at a movie theater in Aurora last summer.

Holmes, 25, is charged with 166 counts, including murder, attempted murder and explosives charges, for allegedly opening fire during a crowded midnight showing of The Dark Knight Rises on July 20.  Twelve people were killed and 58 were wounded by gunfire.  Another 12 people sustained other injuries.

It’s widely expected that Holmes will plead not guilty by reason of insanity, however, defense attorneys could still ask the judge to delay the arraignment.  Once a plea is entered, the district attorney will have about 60 days to determine if prosecutors will seek the death penalty.

If Holmes pleads not guilty by reason of insanity, he will be immediately committed and court-appointed psychiatrists will determine if Holmes was insane when he allegedly opened fire at the movie theater.

Copyright 2013 ABC News Radio

Mar 072013

Arapahoe County Sheriff’s Office(DENVER) — Accused Aurora movie theater shooter James Holmes is expected to enter a plea next week, sources told ABC News, after his legal team lost an attempt to challenge the constitutionality of Colorado laws governing mental health defenses and insanity pleas.

In motions filed last week, public defenders asked Judge William Sylvester to answer a series of legal questions, including whether or not a court-ordered mental evaluation could be used against Holmes if he entered a plea of not guilty by reason of insanity, but later withdrew it.

“In order to effectively represent Mr. Holmes, counsel must be able to accurately assess the consequences of a plea of not guilty by reason of insanity,” his attorneys wrote.

Prosecutors argued there were no constitutional issues to settle, pointing out that public defenders in two previous and unrelated cases filed similar motions that were denied.

“Defendant has not met his burden to show any of the statutes he challenges are unconstitutional,” prosecutors wrote in a motion filed by District Attorney George Brauchler’s office.

In an order filed late Thursday, Sylvester largely ruled against Holmes’ legal team, investigative sources told ABC News.

A court spokesman, who had not seen Sylvester’s ruling and could not comment on what it said, confirmed that prosecutors and defense teams received copies of the order Thursday evening. Attorneys on both sides did not respond to ABC News’ requests for comment.

The judge’s ruling sweeps aside potentially time-consuming legal wrangling that threatened to delay an arraignment hearing set for March 12, when Holmes is expected to enter a plea.

Holmes, now 25, is charged with 166 counts, including murder, attempted murder and explosives charges, after prosecutors say he opened fire July 20 during a crowded midnight showing of The Dark Knight Rises. Twelve people were killed and 58 were wounded by gunfire. Another 12 people sustained other injuries.

Prosecutors have not said whether they intend to seek the death penalty. Holmes has not entered an insanity plea, but his attorneys said he “is considering” the option.

Defense attorneys not involved with the case said that by raising constitutional questions, Holmes’ lawyers may be trying to “build a record” that might help them in potential future appeals.

“Many things are filed to preserve the defendant’s right to appeal,” said Denver defense attorney Larry Pozner. “If you don’t ask, you can’t complain later.”

Copyright 2013 ABC News Radio

Nov 152012

EMMANUEL DUNAND/AFP/GettyImages(NEW YORK) — Towards the end of Pedro Hernandez’ taped confession to kidnapping and killing six-year-old Etan Patz he can be seen kneeling and praying with the detectives who questioned him, ABC News has learned. At that moment, according to sources who have seen the video, there is the sense that everyone in the room has tears in their eyes. Certainly Hernandez appears to.

Is it textbook police work? Maybe not. Nor are the hugs exchanged by suspect and investigators. But is it a powerful, moving and, most importantly, convincing confession?

The office of Manhattan District Attorney Cy Vance clearly thinks so.

So do multiple persons familiar with the case interviewed by ABC News.

Following a grand jury indictment of Hernandez on kidnapping and second degree murder charges, the Manhattan D.A. will now go forward with a prosecution that will by all accounts be a difficult one. No physical evidence found to date links the suspect to the crime, a number of sources say, there are no witnesses, and the crime — committed in 1979 — has long been blamed on another man, although that man was never indicted.

Still, in a system of justice that has winners and losers, in a town like New York where sometimes it seems that all that matters is the zero sum game, the decision of prosecutors to go forward speaks to the law as they understand it, sources explain. The prosecutors have seen the psychiatric reports on the suspect, they have viewed and reviewed the confession, they are certain Hernandez is not crazy.

And if he is not crazy and he has confessed to police — and he has in the past to family members and others — that he killed Patz, the default position is not that his is a false confession, according to sources familiar with the case, but that it’s true. In other words, it’s the statement of a guilty man who, at age 51, wants to get a long-ago crime off his chest.

However formidable the burden of proof may be, then, this is a case that appears to be moving forward.

In that sense, the Hernandez case is the polar opposite of another legal firestorm that fell to Manhattan D.A. Vance — the arrest of the prominent French politician and IMF director Dominique Strauss-Kahn on charges of sexually assaulting a hotel maid. Depending on jury composition, the presentation of circumstantial evidence, and the skill of the prosecutors, it is conceivable that the case could have been made to a jury beyond a reasonable doubt that “DSK” committed the crime.

But in the end, when they examined all the factors they had before them, the prosecutors felt that despite what appeared to be a large body of evidence, they themselves were not convinced beyond a reasonable doubt that DSK was guilty. So in an atmosphere charged with issues of class and race and the suggestion of preferential treatment for a member of the global elite, Vance and his prosecutors dropped the case.

In the current case, which no one pretends will be anything but an uphill battle, they will move forward.

Their courtroom strategy will be to draw the jury back time and again to Hernandez’ own words.

But Harvey Fishbein, the attorney for Hernandez, will have a large arsenal of weapons with which to fight back.

“This case will take time and it will take money,” Fishbein said after his client’s 90-second court appearance Thursday. And, he added, “This case will not tell the world what happened to Etan Patz.”

Fishbein, sources say, is virtually certain to try to cast reasonable doubt on Hernandez’s guilt by calling as a witness the former federal prosecutor who identified Jose Ramos, a convicted sex offender, as Patz’s likely killer. In effect he will put the ex-prosecutor, Stuart GraBois, and his prime suspect on trial.

Ramos was released from a Pennsylvania prison earlier this month after serving 27 years for molestation in an unrelated case, but was immediately rearrested for allegedly lying about where he planned to live after his release.

Fishbein will elicit all he can about Ramos’s past admissions that he was “90 percent certain” he had Patz in his apartment the day he went missing. He may bring forth the testimony of jailhouse snitches incarcerated with Ramos, and he will ask, repeatedly, “Where is the evidence?”

“My client will plead not guilty,” Fishbein said. And without suggesting his client’s confession was false, he simply noted that it is a documented fact that people confess to crimes they have not committed.

Should the case make it all the way to trial, a knowledgeable insider said, one would probably bet against the prosecution.


Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio