Suspect in movie massacre charged on 24 murder counts
JAMES Holmes, the suspect in a mass shooting at a Colorado movie theatre this month, was formally charged with 24 counts of first-degree murder, a capital charge, and 116 counts of attempted first-degree murder.
Prosecutors from the office of Carol Chambers, the district attorney for Arapahoe County, Colorado, presented the charges yesterday at a 44-minute hearing in a state court in Centennial, a Denver suburb. Twelve people died and at least 58 were injured during the attack on July 20 during a midnight showing of the Batman movie 'The Dark Knight Rises'.
First-degree murder can be punishable by death under Colorado law, and multiple counts can be tied to individual murders, depending on state statute. Holmes was also charged with one count of possessing an explosive device and a sentence- enhancing count for unlawful use of a firearm during the commission of a crime.
The shooting in the Aurora movie theatre was the deadliest in Colorado since the Columbine High School massacre in April 1999 and the worst mass shooting in the US since November 2009, when 13 people were killed at Fort Hood in Texas.
During an initial court appearance on July 23, Holmes appeared at times lethargic and at others distracted. Dressed in red prison clothing and with his hair dyed orange, he didn't speak.
Yesterday he appeared calmer, conferring with his lawyers and responding "yes" when asked if he wanted to waive a 35-day deadline for a preliminary hearing. He didn't enter a plea. The 116-seat courtroom, half of it reserved for the families of victims and victims' advocates, was full.
Each death is covered by two separate counts, one for premeditated murder, the other for murder. The attempted murder charges are likewise doubled for each of the injured.
The basic defence tactic when faced with the death penalty is to delay and stall, according to Craig Silverman, a former Denver prosecutor now in private practice as a criminal defence attorney who was at the courthouse today.
"The longer the case goes on, the longer your client stays alive," he said.
Holmes allegedly referred to himself as "the Joker," a Batman villain, as he was being arrested.
A former graduate student in neuroscience at the University of Colorado, Denver, he didn't have a criminal record, police said. Holmes attended high school in San Diego, where his parents and other relatives still live.
He began buying weapons in May at stores in the Aurora region, said Dan Oates, the city's police chief.
Authorities also found a surveillance video of Holmes picking up 150 pounds of ammunition at a Federal Express outlet in Colorado, said a law enforcement official.