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Colorado shooting lawyers tussle over sanity evidence

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FILE -This June 4, 2013 file photo shows Aurora theater shooting suspect James Holmes in court in Centennial, Colo. On Tuesday, Oct. 15, 2013, Holmes’ lawyers will argue that the two hours that passed before he was read his Miranda rights violated his constitutional rights and that anything he told the arresting officers should be barred from his trial. FILE -This June 4, 2013 file photo shows Aurora theater shooting suspect James Holmes in court in Centennial, Colo. On Tuesday, Oct. 15, 2013, Holmes’ lawyers will argue that the two hours that passed before he was read his Miranda rights violated his constitutional rights and that anything he told the arresting officers should be barred from his trial. Image source: Associated Press

   CENTENNIAL, Colo. (AP) — Prosecutors and defense attorneys in the Colorado theater shooting case are battling over what evidence can be admitted during James Holmes' murder trial — all in an attempt to build up or tear down the case that he was insane.

   On Thursday, they are scheduled to argue over statements Holmes made to police after he was arrested after the July 2012 shootings and taken to a police station.

   On Wednesday, they sparred over evidence seized from Holmes' car and computers. That included signs that one computer was allegedly used for an Internet search on the words "rational insanity," and photos on his cellphone of himself holding firearms.

   "The issue is, was he sane or insane at the time," said Karen Steinhauser, a former prosecutor now in private practice.

   Holmes pleaded not guilty by reason of insanity to more than 160 counts of murder and attempted murder. His attorneys have acknowledged he was the shooter in the massacre, which killed 12 people and injured 70 at a suburban Denver theater, but they say he was in the midst of a psychotic episode at the time.

   Prosecutors are seeking the death penalty, and to have Holmes executed, Colorado law requires that they first convince the jury that Holmes was legally sane — that he knew the shootings were wrong.

   The defense has been fighting to exclude any evidence that prosecutors might use to make that point, such as researching definitions of insanity or planning the attack.

   On Wednesday, Holmes' lawyers argued the evidence from his car should be thrown out because police didn't get a warrant before searching it. They said evidence from the computers should be tossed because a search warrant was overly broad.

   Prosecutors said police had no time to seek a warrant to search the car because they feared it might contain explosives or hazardous material that threatened officers and the public. They introduced a photo showing the location of Holmes' car outside the Aurora theater and called law-enforcement officers to testify to the potential threat.

   Holmes' trial is scheduled to start in February.

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