A FORMER neuroscience graduate accused of one of the deadliest mass shootings in recent US history sat silently in court as a judge outlined the charges against him.
James Holmes, 24, appeared just as dazed yesterday as he did in his first court hearing after the Colorado cinema attack that left 12 people dead and 58 others injured.
After the charges were read, prosecutors and defence lawyers sparred over whether a notebook that, according to news reports, Holmes sent to his psychiatrist and had descriptions of the attack was privileged information.
It is an argument that foreshadows one of the case’s most fundamental issues: Does Holmes, pictured, have a mental illness and, if so, what role did it play in the massacre?
Sam Kamin, a law professor at the University of Denver, said there was “pronounced” evidence that the attack was premeditated, which would seem to make an insanity defence difficult. “But,” he added, “the things that we don’t know are what this case is going to hinge on, and that’s his mental state.”
In all, prosecutors charged Holmes with 142 counts over the shooting rampage at a midnight showing of the new Batman film, The Dark Knight Rises.
Holmes faces two first-degree murder charges for each of the 12 people killed and two attempted first-degree murder charges for every one of the 58 injured in the July 20 shooting in Aurora.
The maximum penalty for a first-degree murder conviction is death. The multiple charges expand the opportunities for prosecutors to obtain convictions.
A shackled Holmes did not react as the charges were read. At one point, his hair still dyed orange-red, he leaned over to speak to one of his lawyers and furrowed his brow. When the judge asked him if he agreed to postponing a hearing so his team could have time to prepare, he said softly: “Yeah.”
Some court spectators wore Batman T-shirts. One victim who attended was in a wheelchair with bandages on her leg and arm.