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Second psychiatrist concludes Colorado cinema gunman was sane

CENTENNIAL, Colo. (Reuters) - A second court-appointed psychiatrist has concluded that Colorado movie theater gunman James Holmes was sane when he fatally shot 12 moviegoers and wounded dozens more in 2012, jurors in his capital murder trial heard on Monday.

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Psychiatrist Jeffrey Metzner testified that after interviewing Holmes for more than 25 hours he determined that the onetime neuroscience graduate student met the criteria for sanity under Colorado law.

“Despite having a mental disability or defect ... Mr. Holmes had the capacity to tell the difference between right and wrong,” Metzner said.

Metzner joins psychiatrist William Reid, who testified earlier in the trial that the 27-year-old Holmes, while seriously mentally ill, was sane when he plotted and carried out the mass shooting.

Holmes is charged with multiple counts of first-degree murder and attempted murder for opening fire inside a Denver-area multiplex during a midnight viewing of the Batman film “The Dark Knight Rises.”

Prosecutors have said they will seek the death penalty for the California native if he is convicted.

Metzner said Holmes suffers from schizoaffective disorder combined with a social anxiety disorder and not the full-blown schizophrenia that defense lawyers say their psychiatrist has diagnosed him with.

Metzner was the first psychiatrist chosen by Arapahoe County District Court Judge Carlos Samour to conduct a mental examination on Holmes after he invoked the insanity defense.

Samour ordered a second evaluation after he found Metzner’s report was “incomplete and inadequate.”

Outside the presence of the jury on Monday, Samour told lawyers for both sides that they could not mention his conclusions about Metzner’s examination while questioning the doctor.

Metzner testified that Holmes had a mental breakdown four months after his arrest when he rammed his head into the wall of his jail cell, stopped eating and drinking, smeared feces on himself and spoke in gibberish.

But Metzner said that in the run-up to the massacre, Holmes had the presence of mind to purchase two .40 caliber pistols, a pump-action 12-gauge shotgun and a semiautomatic rifle.

“He didn’t go out and buy water pistols,” Metzner said, adding that Holmes also researched the Columbine High School massacre to gauge the police response and how much ammunition he needed.

Under cross examination, public defender Daniel King asked Metzner if Holmes was “genetically loaded” for psychosis, given the history of mental illness on both sides of his family

“There’s no doubt there is a genetic component,” Metzner said.

Reporting by Keith Coffman; Editing by Dan Whitcomb and Eric Beech