DENVER (AP) -- Attorneys for Colorado theater shooter James Holmes begin presenting their case Thursday by trying to show he was legally insane when he opened fire at a crowded movie premiere in 2012, killing 12 people and wounding 70.
Defense witnesses will offer a less emotional and more clinical assessment of Holmes after two months of often-gruesome testimony from prosecution witnesses, including many wounded victims.
Holmes' defense goal is not only to keep him out of prison, but also to keep him alive. Legal experts say the coming days may be defense attorneys' best chance to convince jurors he should not be executed, even if they decide he should be convicted.
"What the defense is going to try to do is say, 'This would have never happened but for the intervention in this guy's life of very serious mental illness,'" said George H. Kendall, who has handled other high-profile death-penalty cases.
Two state psychiatrists who examined Holmes in the months after the shooting concluded he was sane. But defense attorneys say Holmes had schizophrenia and was in a psychotic episode so severe it rendered him unable to tell right from wrong -- Colorado's standard for an insanity verdict.
If jurors agree, Holmes would be committed to a state mental hospital indefinitely.
The insanity defense is successful in only about 25 percent of felony trials nationally, and the odds are worse in a high-profile homicide.
Holmes' attorneys will call at least two mental health experts of their own who studied Holmes closer to the time of the July 20, 2012, shooting and declared him insane. They will try to show jurors that Holmes' mental decline was far greater than the state doctors knew.