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Movie Theater Massacre: James Holmes on Trial

holmesAURORA, Colo. — Mass shooting suspect James Holmes is charged with a total of 166 counts of murder, attempted murder and other charges.

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Accused Colorado movie theater shooting suspect, James Holmes, in court.

AURORA, Colo. — Attorneys for Colorado movie theater shooting suspect James Holmes on Tuesday filed their intent to enter a plea of not guilty by reason of insanity on behalf of their client.

Holmes faces charges in the July 20, 2012, shooting spree that took the lives of 12 people and wounded dozens more at the premiere in Aurora of the Batman movie “The Dark Knight Rises.”

Federal agents have said the 25-year-old former University of Colorado doctoral student planned the attack for months.

His trial is scheduled to begin next February.

Click here to read the full story at CNN.com.

CENTENNIAL, Colo. (CNN) — A judge on Tuesday entered a standard plea of not guilty for James Holmes, the man suspected in a mass shooting at a Colorado movie theater, after he and his attorneys said they were not ready to enter a plea.

In court documents, Holmes’ attorneys had suggested that they might enter a plea of not guilty by reason of insanity for the shooting rampage at the theater that left 12 people dead and 58 injured on July 20, 2012.

His attorneys still may enter an insanity plea but it would be subject to the judge’s approval.

If he does enter an insanity plea, the judge has ruled that he may have to undergo an interview under the influence of drugs –dubbed a ‘truth serum’ – in order to evaluate his mental state.

The process is designed to lower a patient’s inhibition, and is decades old.

Judge Sylvester has also ruled that he may be given a lie detector test.

Holmes’ parents sat holding hands during the hearing but didn’t react to the judge’s decision.

They were seated directly across the aisle from wheelchair-bound shooting victim Caleb Medley and his wife, Katie, who delivered their baby shortly after the shooting.

The hearing was delayed about 30 minutes because Holmes’ attorney Daniel King was late.

He attributed it to traffic caused by unexpected snowfall — a weather system that surprised many journalists in the courtroom, as well.

When King asked Judge William Blair Sylvester for a delay of the arraignment, there were audible sighs from the side of the courtroom where shooting survivors and victim families sit. When the judge declared that he would move forward with the arraignment, one man held his hands in the air in a “hallelujah” gesture.

Prosecutors say they will make a decision on whether it not to seek the death penalty against the 25-year-old Holmes at a hearing April 1.

But an insanity plea could make such a move harder, said David Beller, an attorney who is not connected to the case.

“There are a few reasons they wouldn’t go for the death penalty; the most important one being his mental state,” Beller said. “The Supreme Court, and really society, has been very clear: We don’t execute people who are mentally ill.”

The reaction

Family members of some of those who died in the shooting say they would be unhappy with an insanity defense.

Jessica Watts, whose cousin was killed, said she does not believe Holmes is insane.

“Absolutely not. This was months and months of planning and thousands of dollars spent on his part in order to pull this horrific night off,” she said.

Federal agents have said Holmes began buying guns in May 2012, two months before the attack. He allegedly built an arsenal of two Glock handguns, an AR-15 rifle, a shotgun and 6,295 rounds of ammunition.

In addition, authorities contend, the former University of Colorado doctoral student dyed his hair fiery orange and apparently visited the AMC movie theater, taking photographs of hallways and doors, two weeks before the shooting.

The defense

According to the Colorado Bar Association, an insanity defense refers to “a person who is so diseased or defective in mind at the time of the commission of the act as to be incapable of distinguishing right from wrong with respect to that act is not accountable.”

If Holmes’ enters such a plea, he would waive all medical confidentiality and will have to turn over the name of any doctor or psychologist who may have treated him, according to Colorado law.

“If he enters the not guilty by reason of insanity plea, he’s going to be examined by state doctors and any statement he makes to those state doctors are given to the prosecution for potential use later,” Beller said.

On Monday, a judge ruled that Holmes will also have to agree to be drugged by doctors to assess his condition if he enters an insanity plea.

Earlier this month, Holmes’ lawyers tried to have Colorado’s insanity defense laws changed.

The attorneys asked the judge to rule parts of the state’s insanity defense laws unconstitutional.

Among other issues, they cited the requirement that a defendant “cooperate” with examining psychiatrists as a violation of the defendant’s privilege against compelled self-incrimination.

The charges

Holmes is charged with a total of 166 counts of murder, attempted murder and other charges.

Authorities say he booby-trapped his apartment with explosives, then traveled to the movie theater armed with four weapons, tear gas and body armor planning to kill audience members during a screening of “Batman: The Dark Knight Rises.”

Witnesses who have spoken to CNN about the shooting have said the gunman roamed the theater, shooting randomly as people tried to scramble away or cowered between seats.

Among the 41 calls to 911, one stands out. In the 27-second call, at least 30 shots can be heard amid the chaos.

At his preliminary hearing in January, police who responded described hellish scenes inside the theater and described finding Holmes, dressed in body armor, standing outside, seeming “detached from it all,” according to Officer Jason Oviatt.

At the conclusion of the brief hearing, the father of one of the victim’s shouted out, “Rot in hell, Holmes.”

Holmes’ trial date has been set for August 5.

AURORA, Colo. — James E. Holmes was ordered to stand trial Thursday on charges he killed 12 people and wounded dozens more in a shooting rampage at a midnight screening of a “Batman” movie last summer.

Arapahoe County District Judge William Sylvester ruled that prosecutors had shown probable cause that Holmes committed the crimes and ordered him bound for trial on all counts.

He said Holmes should continue to be held without bail.

Holmesmovie-suspect-5 is due to be arraigned Friday, but his defense attorneys filed papers Thursday saying he’s not ready to enter a plea.

They are likely to ask for the arraignment to be delayed.

CENTENNIAL, Colorado (CNN) — James Holmes sat in the interrogation room in his T-shirt, white socks and boxers.

Gone was the body armor that police found him wearing when they encountered him outside a movie theater where scores of people had been shot. Police had cut it off.

Craig Appel — the lead detective in the investigation into the 12 killings at the Century Aurora 16 Multiplex Theater in Aurora, Colorado — testified Tuesday that paper bags had been placed over Holmes’ hands to potentially preserve evidence. As Holmes was being interviewed, he used the paper bags as puppets.

He played with his polystyrene drinking cup as if it were a piece in a game, Appel said.

aurora-theaterHe removed a staple from the table and tried to stick it in an electrical outlet, the detective testified.

Asked by a defense attorney whether he had ordered a blood test for Holmes, Appel said he had not.

“There were no indications that he was under the influence of anything,” he said.

Appel testified that investigators found 76 shell casings at the auditorium where Holmes is accused of killing 12 people and wounding 58 more on July 20, at a midnight movie showing. Most of the spent rounds — 65 — were .223 caliber, while six were shotgun shells and five were .40 caliber.

Aurora police Sgt. Matthew Fyles testified the .223 cartridges were steel-core rounds, which are more likely to pass through a body intact and can cause multiple wounds.

The details came on the second day of Holmes’ preliminary hearing, which could last all week. It is meant to prove to Arapahoe County District Judge William Sylvester that prosecutors have enough evidence to proceed to trial.

Attorneys for Holmes, a 25-year-old former neuroscience graduate student at a nearby university, are expected to seek a “diminished capacity” defense that could prevent the case from getting that far. Some of their questions during cross-examination have also suggested they are trying to make it appear Holmes might have been under the influence of something the night be was arrested.

The term “diminished capacity,” according to the Colorado Bar Association, relates to a person’s ability or inability “to make adequately considered decisions” regarding his or her legal representation because of “mental impairment or for some other reason.”

The day wrapped up with Fyles, who detailed what happened to each of the victims, including a dozen people who were injured as people tried to flee.

Fyles will testify again Wednesday morning as the last prosecution witness. The defense is allowed to call two witnesses.

Chilling 911 calls played

Also Tuesday, prosecutors played the first 911 calls from the movie theater shooting as they continued building their case at a preliminary hearing.

The recording was loud, chaotic and difficult to understand. There was too much sound to make out what the caller was saying.

Just one thing is unmistakable: the sound of gunshots. At least 30 of them. In 27 seconds.

Detective Randy Hansen testified that the first call to authorities came 18 minutes after the film started. More trickled in until the torrent was complete: 41 calls in all, he said.

Because the movie was still playing and, in at least one, the gunman was still stalking the theater, the calls are difficult to make out. In one, a 13-year-old girl called to say her cousins had been shot. A 911 operator tried to lead the sobbing girl through performing CPR on one who was still breathing.

Family members of victims attending the hearing held each other and choked back tears as the calls were played.

Police describe elaborate setup in apartment

After detailing the calls, prosecutors turned to the intricate explosive web authorities say Holmes left in his apartment, including jars of homemade napalm with bullets suspended inside and topped with thermite, a material that burns so hot it is nearly impossible to put out.

In photos displayed in court, the mixture looked like amber-colored gelatin.

Elsewhere in the sparsely decorated apartment, a container of glycerin hung connected to a tripwire, ready to tip into a frying pan that held a homemade substance that would have sent sparks flying onto carpets soaked in oil and gas, setting them aflame, FBI bomb technician Garrett Gumbinner testified. A robot sent inside discovered the tripwire.

He said Holmes also told him that he had left a boombox by a trash container outside his apartment rigged to start playing loud music 40 minutes after he turned it on.

Next to it, Holmes said, he left a remote-control toy car and a control device that would set off the explosives inside his apartment, Gumbinner testified.

Appel said someone took the boombox into an apartment where police recovered it and found Holmes’ prints on it. They never located the toy car, he said.

Also, Steve Beggs, a supervisory agent for the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives, testified that Holmes had purchased 6,295 rounds of ammunition and four firearms beginning in May. Ten weeks before the attack, on May 10, he bought two canisters of tear gas over the Internet, Beggs said.

He was still buying materials into July, Beggs said, testifying that authorities have video of Holmes buying an accessory at a Colorado gun store on July 1. In the video, he said, Holmes’ hair is bright orange.

Court room packed with family, spectators

In Monday’s first day of testimony, police officers recounted arriving at the movie theater to find a detached, sweaty Holmes outside and a horrific scene inside the theater, where the floor had become slippery with blood and cell phones rang unanswered.

Holmes was a doctoral student in Aurora, in the neuroscience program at the Anschutz Medical Campus of the University of Colorado, Denver, until he withdrew a month before being arrested outside the bullet-riddled movie theater. He had been a patient of a University of Colorado psychiatrist, according to a court document filed by his lawyers.

Holmes did not speak during Monday’s hearing. His bushy hair and long beard contrasted with the bright red hair and close-cropped facial hair he sported during previous appearances.

During portions of the hearing, family members of victims held one another, sobbing.

Security was tight. Spectators had to pass through a metal detector and then were searched again before entering the courtroom. At least nine armed officers stood guard inside, some of them scanning the audience packed with reporters and victims’ family members.

Centennial, Colorado (CNN) – So much blood the theater floor had become slippery. Bodies with horrific injuries. The eerie sound of cell phones ringing, over and over again.

This is the scene Aurora police Officer Justin Grizzle said he encountered moments after entering the theater where, according to authorities, 25-year-old James Holmes killed 12 people in a July 20 shooting rampage.

Grizzle testified Monday on the opening day of the preliminary hearing for Holmes, who is charged with 166 counts of murder, attempted murder and weapons charges.

The 13-year veteran wiped away tears while describing his efforts to rush badly wounded victims to the hospital in his police cruiser, including shooting victim Ashley Moser and her husband, who wanted Grizzle to turn around and head back to the theater.

“He was shot in the head somewhere. He kept asking where his … daughter was,” Grizzle said. “He opened the door and tried to jump out.”

Grizzle said he had to drive and hold the man by his shoulder to keep him in the car.

The girl the man was seeking, 6-year-old Veronica Moser-Sullivan, was shot four times and was among those killed in the shooting at a midnight showing of “Batman: The Dark Knight Rises.” Veronica’s mother, Ashley, faces a long recovery after being paralyzed in her lower half and miscarrying after the shooting.

aurora-picThe scene was still gruesome when Detective Matthew Ingui arrived 12 hours later with other investigators.

“We saw the first victim laying on the ground,” he said “There’s shoes, blood, body tissue and popcorn on the floor.”

Blood was everywhere, he said.

Ingui described how he outlined each of the victims and marked where the bodies were found. Holmes had no visible reaction during the testimony.

The detective said investigators found 209 live rounds of .223 ammunition and 15 cartridges of .40-caliber rounds inside the auditorium.

The preliminary hearing that began Monday is designed to show a judge that the state has enough evidence to proceed to trial. Prosecutors are calling scores of witnesses and outlining their evidence in the case. The hearing could go on for days.

A gag order imposed by the judge in the case has limited the flow of information about the attack. However, a source said Holmes allegedly went out a rear exit door, propped it open and gathered his weapons. He then returned to the theater and tossed a canister inside before opening fire, the source said.

Screaming moviegoers scrambled to escape from the gunman, who shot at random as he walked up the theater’s steps, according to witnesses.

It was a scene “straight out of a horror film,” said Chris Ramos, who was inside the theater.

While none of the four law enforcement witnesses who testified Monday offered insight into a possible motive for the shooting, some new details emerged.

Prosecutors showed surveillance camera video taken inside the theater complex that they said shows Holmes — dressed in dark trousers, a light-colored shirt with a T-shirt underneath and a ski cap covering his hair — using a cell phone at a ticket kiosk. Holmes printed out a ticket that had been purchased July 8, they said.

The cameras also captured the aftermath of the shooting as waves of people ran out of doors with theater staff behind counters. One employee even leaped over a counter.

There was no video from inside the auditorium where the shootings occurred.

Police Sgt. Gerald Jonsgaard said Holmes stopped the theater door from locking by using a small piece of plastic commonly used to hold tablecloths onto a picnic table. Jonsgaard also said he spotted a shotgun and a large drum magazine that appeared to be jammed on the floor of the theater.

Holmes’ attorneys are expected to argue that their client has “diminished capacity,” a term that, according to the Colorado Bar Association, relates to a person’s ability or inability “to make adequately considered decisions” regarding his or her legal representation because of “mental impairment or for some other reason.”

Several times, on cross-examination, they have asked witnesses about Holmes’ demeanor and what he looked like when police found him.

The day’s testimony concluded with a detective who interviewed people wounded in the attack and the two coroners who conducted the 12 autopsies.

After the hearing, Arapahoe County District Judge William Sylvester will determine whether there is enough evidence for Holmes to stand trial.

Security was tight at the hearing. Spectators had to pass through a metal detector and then were searched again before entering the courtroom. At least nine armed officers stood guard inside, some of them scanning the audience packed with reporters and victims’ family members.

Holmes did not speak during the hearing. His bushy hair and long beard contrasted with the bright red hair and close-cropped looks he sported during previous appearances.

During portions of the hearing, family members of victims held one another, sobbing.

Earlier in Monday’s hearing, police Officer Jason Oviatt — the first officer to encounter Holmes after the rampage ended — testified that Holmes seemed “very, very relaxed.”

Holmes, his pupils dilated, sweating and smelly, didn’t struggle or even tense his muscles as he was dragged away to be searched.

“He seemed very detached from it all,” Oviatt testified, describing Holmes as unnaturally calm amid the chaos and carnage.

Oviatt testified Monday that within minutes of the first calls, he responded to the theater and found Holmes standing outside in a helmet and gas mask, his hands atop a white coupe that turned out to belong to him.

At first, Oviatt said, he thought Holmes was a police officer, but as he drew within 20 feet, he realized something was terribly wrong.

“He was just standing there. All the other officers were running around, trying to get into the theater,” Oviatt said.

A trail of blood led from the theater. The rifle that authorities believe Holmes used in the attack lay on the ground near the building.

Holmes calmly complied with all Oviatt’s orders, the officer testified.

Another officer, Aaron Blue, testified later that Holmes matter-of-factly told him, without prompting, about the complex web of explosives that authorities would later find in his Aurora apartment.

He told Blue that the devices “wouldn’t go off unless we set them off.”

Holmes was a doctoral student in the neuroscience program at the Anschutz Medical Campus of the University of Colorado, Denver, in Aurora, until he withdrew a month before being arrested outside the bullet-riddled movie theater. He had been a patient of a University of Colorado psychiatrist, according to a court document filed by his lawyers.

His only brush with the law in Colorado appears to have been a 2011 summons for speeding from Aurora police.

If Holmes is ruled incompetent to stand trial, the hearing could provide the best opportunity for victims and the public to understand what happened and why.

To at least one victim, it doesn’t matter if Holmes stands trial.

“I obviously don’t want him to walk, but as long as he doesn’t see the light of day again, it doesn’t really much concern me beyond that,” said Stephen Barton, who suffered wounds on his face, neck and upper torso in the shooting that night. “To me, I see the trial as being an opportunity to learn more about what happened that night beyond just my own personal recollection.”

AURORA, Colo. (CNN) — Relatives of nine people killed last summer at an Aurora, Colorado, movie theater said an invitation to attend an event on the eve of the remodeled complex’s reopening is “disgusting” and “wholly offensive to the memory of our loved ones.”

The Aurora Century 16 movie theater, where 12 people were killed and 58 were injured, is scheduled to reopen to the public January 18.

An e-mail sent to the families said Cinemark USA Inc. would hold a “special evening of remembrance” for invited guests the prior evening.

The invitation and the timing of it — two days after Christmas — infuriated relatives of nine of those killed. They signed a blunt letter to the theater chain’s management.

“During the holiday we didn’t think anyone or anything could make our grief worse but you, Cinemark, have managed to do just that,” the letter began.

The letter calls the Cinemark event a publicity ploy from a company that is oblivious to the emotional strain on the families of the victims.

“Our family members will never be on this earth with us again and a movie ticket and some token words from people who didn’t care enough to reach out to us, nor respond when we reached out to them to talk, is appalling,” the letter reads.

The group says it will urge others to boycott “the killing field of our children.”

“The theater has no immediate comment,” a Cinemark spokeswoman said when reached by phone.

The invitation, sent through the Colorado Organization for Victim Assistance, said a movie would follow a private ceremony at the remodeled theater complex.

It added: “We understand this may be a difficult time for you. Counselors will be available at the theater if you would like to speak to someone.”

In December, the office of Aurora Mayor Steve Hogan announced the private event for victims and their families, first responders, local leaders and “to those working on the community healing process.” The mayor and Gov. John Hickenlooper are expected to attend the event.

James Holmes is accused of going on a shooting spree during a midnight screening of the Batman film “The Dark Knight Rises” July 20, 2012, at the movie complex. He faces 152 charges.

Several victims’ families and survivors have filed lawsuits against Cinemark USA, Inc.

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