News Column

Evidentiary Hearing Held in Aurora Shooting Case

Jan. 7, 2013

Officials braced for a crush of onlookers Monday at a hearing in the case against James Holmes, accused in the deadly Aurora, Colo., movie theater shooting.

Two overflow rooms were set up with a live video feed. One room was to be reserved for 100 or so victims and family members who have said they plan to attend the preliminary hearing, to begin at 9 a.m. MST.

The five-day hearing, also called an evidentiary hearing, is to determine if there is enough evidence to put Holmes on trial.

Chief Judge William Sylvester of Colorado's 18th Judicial District is responsible for determining if there is "probable cause" to believe a crime was committed.

Armed deputies were to be stationed on the rooftops in the Centennial, Colo., judicial compound, as they have been at every Holmes court appearance, the Los Angeles Times said.

Holmes, 24, faces 166 counts of first-degree murder and attempted murder in the July 20 shooting spree at the suburban Denver Century movie theater that left 12 people dead and 58 wounded.

Holmes has not entered a plea.

While prosecutors must show enough evidence exists to proceed to trial, defense lawyers may call their own witnesses to contradict prosecution witnesses, especially on Holmes' "mental state," Sylvester ruled last week.

If Holmes is found legally insane or to have a mental defect, the death penalty is off the table, former Denver District Attorney Craig Silverman told the Times.

Holmes' lawyers have suggested in court their client, who dropped out of the University of Colorado-Denver's neuroscience doctoral program after failing an oral exam in June, suffers from mental illness.

Prosecutors have called Holmes a promising doctoral candidate who violently unraveled and methodically prepared for the movie theater attack for months.

Assistant District Attorney Karen Pearson has said in court Holmes told a classmate as early as March he wanted to kill people.

On June 7, the day he failed a key oral exam, he bought a lightweight AR-15 semiautomatic rifle to add to his collection, prosecutors have said.

That collection included combat gear, explosive materials and thousands of rounds of ammunition, prosecutors have said.

When he was arrested minutes after the shooting, Holmes was dressed entirely in black body armor, much like the SWAT team of police that responded.

The shooting was among the largest mass shootings in U.S. history, although it has been overshadowed by later attacks, including last month's Newtown, Conn., massacre of 20 Sandy Hook Elementary School students and six school employees.

On Saturday, 4 miles from the Aurora mall where the movie theater shooting occurred, four people were killed, including the suspected gunman, after a 6-hour standoff at a town house.

Source: Copyright United Press International 2013

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