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Alleged Colorado Theater Shooter Could Face Medicated Interviews

James Holmes in a photo from the Arapahoe County (Colo.)  Sheriff's Office.
James Holmes in a photo from the Arapahoe County (Colo.) Sheriff's Office.

The judge in charge of the case against the alleged Colorado theater shooter said he would warn James Holmes that if he pleads not guilty by reason of insanity he could be drugged for interviews with the state.

Denver's ABC affiliate reports:

"Judge William Blair Sylvester issued an order Monday with a list of questions and information he will give Holmes if Holmes enters that plea. ...

"The defense asked Judge Sylvester to tell Holmes in court the consequences of an insanity plea and the judge agreed last week.

"That list includes that Holmes could face a narcoanalytic interview using drugs that are medically appropriate."

According to the local CBS station, a "narcoanalytic interview" is conducted using a "truth serum," usually sodium amytal and pentothol that lowers inhibitions and is thought to lead to a more truthful exchange.

The point of using it in Holmes' case is to determine whether or not he was insane when he allegedly opened fire in a crowded movie theater last July, killing 12 people and injuring 70.

Judge Sylvester may issue his warnings to Holmes in a hearing tomorrow, where he is expected to enter a plea.

Denver's Westword reports that back in January, Holmes' attorneys asked Judge Sylvester some questions about Colorado's insanity defense laws.

"They asked the judge to clarify the meaning of the word 'cooperate' — as in, the law says defendants must cooperate with court-ordered mental examinations — as well as the term 'mental condition.' They also asked the judge to rule that 'state doctors should not be allowed to interrogate Mr. Holmes about the facts of the case' or cause him to incriminate himself, in addition to asking the judge to rule the laws unconstitutional," the paper writes.

The judge found the laws were constitutional and the ABC affiliate reports that he expanded a bit on what "cooperation" means in his decision today.

Holmes, the judge will say in case he pleads not guilty, will be observed by "one or more psychiatrists;" he will give up "any claim of confidentiality or privelege with physicians or psychologists;" and he may face a polygraph exam.

Copyright 2021 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.

Eyder Peralta is NPR's East Africa correspondent based in Nairobi, Kenya.