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Colorado judge sets new December 8 trial date in theater massacre case

By Keith Coffman

CENTENNIAL Colo. (Reuters) - Jury selection in the much-delayed trial of accused movie theater gunman James Holmes will begin on Dec. 8, a Colorado judge said on Tuesday, dismissing objections by the defense who said they needed more time.

Arapahoe County District Judge Carlos Samour made the ruling at a pre-trial hearing in Centennial, a suburb of Denver.

Holmes, 26, is charged with multiple counts of first-degree murder and attempted murder for the July 2012 rampage at a cinema in nearby Aurora during a midnight screening of the Batman film, "The Dark Knight Rises."

Prosecutors are seeking the death penalty for the former neuroscience doctoral candidate, who has pleaded not guilty by reason of insanity to killing 12 people and wounding 70 others.

His lawyers acknowledge Holmes was the lone shooter, but say he was in "the throes of a psychotic episode" at the time.

At Tuesday's hearing, Samour heard arguments over whether a second court-ordered sanity exam for Holmes can be videotaped, and defense challenges to the reliability and admissibility of testimony on gunshot residue and metallurgy by experts.

The judge said he would rule on the issue of videotaping within a couple of days.

Holmes underwent an initial court-ordered psychiatric evaluation last year, but the findings from that have not been made public. In February, prosecutors won a court order from Samour calling for a rare second evaluation.

Defense lawyers said any litigation resulting from the second sanity exam could make the proposed Dec. 8 start date for the trial unrealistic. But Samour dismissed the concerns.

"It's difficult to predict how things will unfold," he said in court. "I prefer to give a trial date and I expect both sides to be ready to go."

(Reporting by Keith Coffman; Editing by Daniel Wallis and Sandra Maler)

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