Bluefield Daily Telegraph, Bluefield, WV

National and World

July 30, 2012

Colo. suspect charges: Murder, attempted murder

RICHMOND, Va. — James Holmes appeared just as dazed as he did in his first court appearance last week after the deadly Colorado movie theater shootings.

In a packed Denver-area courtroom Monday, Holmes, 24, sat silently and did not react as he heard formal charges against him, including first-degree murder for each of the 12 who died and attempted murder for each of the 58 people who were injured in one of the deadliest mass shootings in recent U.S. history.

At one point, a shackled Holmes, still with his hair dyed orange-red, leaned over to speak with one of his lawyers and furrowed his brow.

When the judge asked the former neuroscience student if he agreed with his attorney’s request to delay a future court hearing so his defense team could have more time to prepare, Holmes said softly: “Yea.”

Some of the people in the court wore Batman T-shirts. Several people clasped their hands and bowed their heads as if in prayer before the hearing. At least one victim attended, and she was in a wheelchair and had bandages on her leg and arm. One unidentified man glared at Holmes throughout the hearing.

Holmes was charged with 24 counts of murder, two each for the 12 victims, and 116 counts of attempted murder, two each for the 58 injured.

For the murder charges, one count included murder with deliberation, the other murder with extreme indifference. Both counts carry a maximum death penalty upon conviction; the minimum is life without parole.

A conviction under extreme indifference means that any life sentences would have to be served consecutively, not concurrently, said Craig Silverman, a former chief deputy district attorney in Denver.

In addition, Holmes was charged with one count of possession of explosives and one count of a crime of violence. Authorities said booby trapped his apartment with the intent to kill any officers responding there the night of the attack.

Legal analysts expect the case to be dominated by arguments over the defendant’s sanity.

Attorneys also argued over a defense motion to find out who leaked information to the news media about a package the 24-year-old Holmes allegedly sent to his psychiatrist at the University of Colorado Denver.

Authorities seized the package July 23, three days after the shooting, after finding it in the mailroom of the medical campus where Holmes studied.

Several media outlets reported that it contained a notebook with descriptions of an attack, but Arapahoe County District Attorney Carol Chambers said in court papers that the parcel hadn’t been opened by the time the “inaccurate” news reports appeared.

Prosecutor Tamara Brady said Monday she will subpoena psychiatrist Lynne Fenton to testify in the dispute over whether a notebook is privileged because of a possible doctor-patient relationship. A hearing on the matter was set for Aug. 16.

District Chief Judge William Sylvester set an Aug. 9 hearing on a motion filed by news organizations seeking to have the case docket unsealed.

A hearing to update the status of the case was set for Sept. 27. A hearing to review evidence matters and to determine whether Holmes should continue to be held without bail was set for the week of Nov. 9.

Unlike Holmes’ first court appearance July 23, Monday’s hearing was not televised. At the request of the defense, Sylvester barred video and still cameras from the hearing, saying expanded coverage could interfere with Holmes’ right to a fair trial.

Last week, Sylvester allowed a live video feed that permitted the world its first glimpse of the shooting suspect. With an unruly mop of orange hair, Holmes appeared bleary-eyed and distracted. He did not speak.

Security was tight for Monday’s hearing. Armed officers were stationed on the roof of both buildings at the court complex, and law enforcement vehicles blocked entrances to the buildings.

Investigators said Holmes began stockpiling gear for his assault four months ago and bought his weapons in May and June, well before the shooting spree just after midnight during a showing of “The Dark Knight Rises.” He was arrested by police outside the theater.

Analysts said that means it’s likely there’s only one main point of legal dispute between prosecutors and the defense.

“I don’t think it’s too hard to predict the path of this proceeding,” Silverman said. “This is not a whodunit. ... The only possible defense is insanity.”

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