Holmes faces 142 charges in Colo. movie massacre
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CENTENNIAL, Colo. -- Prosecutors on Monday filed 142 charges -- including 24 for first-degree murder -- against James Holmes, the former graduate student accused of killing 12 people and injuring 58 during a shooting spree at an Aurora, Colo., movie theater early July 20.
In addition to first-degree murder, Mr. Holmes was charged with 116 counts of attempted murder, one count of using a deadly weapon in commission of a violent crime and one count of possession of explosive devices. The murder charges carry a minimum penalty of life in prison and a maximum of death.
For each of the 12 people killed, Mr. Holmes faces two charges of first-degree murder -- one for acting after deliberation and with intent, the other for acting with malice and having "an extreme indifference to the value of human life." Mr. Holmes was charged with two counts of attempted first-degree murder for each of the 58 injured.
The charging document also lists, for the first time, the names of all the victims of the attack.
Mr. Holmes, 24, has been in police custody for 10 days, but prosecutors had delayed charging him as investigators and police continued their probe. Police have described the shooting rampage -- which occurred during a midnight showing of the new Batman film, "The Dark Knight Rises" -- as a methodical attack that took months of planning, during which Mr. Holmes purchased weapons and stockpiled other materials.
At Monday's hearing, Colorado District Judge William Blair Sylvester also heard several motions, including those from Mr. Holmes' attorneys, who want access to documents related to the investigation. Prosecutors said they have thousands of pages of police reports and long lists of witnesses.
Tamara A. Brady, a public defender representing Mr. Holmes, said she and others have yet to see much of that information. "We are operating simply on things we have heard and things we assume," she said. Prosecutors agreed to give Mr. Holmes' attorneys much of their documentation in the next few days.
Judge Sylvester also tentatively set aside a week in November for a preliminary hearing.
During the 45 minutes Mr. Holmes was in court, he appeared dazed. He had grown a light-colored beard since he last appeared in court. He was emotionless, and his eyes appeared heavy. He mostly sat back in his chair, sometimes swaying side to side.
His gaze often drifted to one of eight officers in the courtroom, the attorneys or judge. At one point, he stared at the ceiling. At another, he closed his eyes as if dozing off.
Mr. Holmes spoke only once, when Judge Sylvester asked whether he understood that his attorneys had waived a time restriction for his preliminary hearing. "Yes," he said.
The judge set Aug. 16 to hear a motion to determine whether information contained in a package that Mr. Holmes allegedly sent to a University of Colorado at Denver psychiatrist, Lynne Fenton, before the shooting, is privileged. News reports described the notebook as a journal of sorts that included crude drawings of a mass gun attack. It is in dispute when the package arrived at the university, but it was seized by police July 23. Arapahoe County District Attorney Carol Chambers said in court papers that the parcel was found unopened.
Mr. Holmes' attorneys say he was Dr. Fenton's patient while he was a student in the university's doctoral program in neuroscience, and that leaking information about the package violated his privacy and right to due process and a fair trial. Mr. Holmes is being represented by Ms. Brady and public defender Daniel King, and his mental health is expected to be at the heart of the case.
For Monday's hearing, Judge Sylvester barred cameras and all electronic equipment from the courtroom. The judge also has imposed a gag order on attorneys and law enforcement agencies involved in the case, sealed court records and barred the university from releasing relevant public records to the media. News organizations are contesting the judge's decision to seal records the prosecution and defense file.
An attorney representing a group of media organizations "too large to name" spoke during Monday's hearing. Judge Sylvester set an Aug. 9 hearing on the issue of unsealing court records.
Dozens of witnesses and relatives of victims, along with a few victims themselves, attended the hearing -- either sitting in the courtroom, where they could stare down Mr. Holmes, or in a nearby room, where they could watch the televised proceedings. Afterward, prosecutors and victim advocates met with the group to explain what was to come and answer questions, according to several of those attending. They also tried to manage expectations and warned the group that there was a long process ahead.
Those at the courthouse Monday included an apparent victim transported from the courthouse in a wheelchair, her left arm and left leg bandaged. The mother of Rebecca Wingo, a 32-year-old mother of two who was killed, was there. There also were several relatives of Ashley Moser, 25, who was seriously injured in the shooting and whose daughter, 6-year-old Veronica Moser-Sullivan, was killed.
"It was very important to come today to see him for what he was," said Mary Ellen Hansen, Ms. Moser's aunt and a retired principal. Unlike the prior hearing, which Ms. Hansen said she also watched, Mr. Holmes seemed more alert and aware Monday, she said. "I felt anger and I felt resentment that anyone could take away someone's life for just going to the movies. ... He had a persona of evilness to him."
Ashley Moser, who was pregnant, has suffered a miscarriage since the shooting, her relatives said, and she is paralyzed below the waist. Besides losing her daughter and an unborn child, she also has lost her dream of becoming a nurse, her aunt said.
First Published July 31, 2012 12:00 am