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Mental Evaluation Could Include Truth Serum

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James Holmes in court on March 12, 2013 (credit: CBS)

James Holmes in court on March 12, 2013 (credit: CBS)

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CENTENNIAL, Colo. (CBS4)- A judge entered a “not guilty” plea for the man suspected of opening fire in a crowded theater in Aurora last summer.

The judge entered the plea in an Araphaoe County courtroom on Tuesday for James Holmes after his lawyers said they were not ready to enter a plea.

Holmes could still plead not guilty by reason of insanity but he would have to go through extensive mental evaluations that could include the practice of narcoanalysis which is the use of a truth serum.

The serum inhibits the front portion or frontal lobe of the brain that includes areas that deal with judgement and critical thinking.

Cameras were allowed in the courtroom for Tuesday’s hearing for the first time since Holmes’ initial appearance. The suspected gunman had longer hair and a beard.

Even though the judge entered the plea of not guilty on Holmes’ behalf, the defense can change it to an insanity plea.

“Under Colorado law once a defendant pleads not guilty by reason of insanity they are required to undergo an evaluation,” said CBS4 Legal Analyst Karen Steinhauser.

The judge has ruled the mental evaluation could include polygraph tests or even narcoanalysis which is the administration of a truth serum.

“I don’t think there’s a single published well validated trial,” said Dr. Kim Gorgens, a full-time Clinical Associate Professor in the Graduate School of Professional Psychology at the University of Denver.

Gorgens said the method is rarely used and is not thought to be very reliable in the scientific world, “It would roughly be the lay person equivalent of giving someone a couple of cocktails.”

Whether or not the drugs reveal anything remains to be seen but the practice would bring more attention to the already high profile case.

“I think it introduces a tremendous amount of risk but it certainly will get people around the world talking,” said Gorgens.

The Arapahoe County District Attorney will need to decide by April 1 if this will be a death penalty case.

The judge has set a trial date for sometime in August.

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