Centennial, Colorado - The former graduate student accused of opening fire at a Denver-area screening of the latest “Batman” film, killing 12 people, was formally charged on Monday with 24 counts of first-degree murder and 116 counts of attempted murder.
James Holmes, 24, was formally charged during his second court appearance since his arrest after the massacre during a packed showing of “The Dark Knight Rises” shortly after midnight on July 20.
The rampage left 12 people dead and 58 injured, including several who remain in critical condition.
Holmes, wearing jail garb and with his hair still dyed orange but with the color fading to pink in places, sat impassively at a table with two defense lawyers through the 45 minute hearing.
But he looked more alert than during his first court appearance a week ago, when he looked dazed and groggy. The courtroom was packed with members of the media and family members of victims.
Holmes spoke only once on Monday, answering “yes” when Arapahoe County District Judge William Sylvester asked if he understood the charges against him.
The judge set a pre-trial hearing in the case for September 27 and tentatively scheduled a preliminary hearing for Holmes during the week of November 13.
Prosecutors essentially charged Holmes with two murder counts for each victim - one standard first-degree murder charge plus one count of murder with extreme indifference. In all, prosecutors have charged Holmes with 142 criminal counts in the shooting, the 24 murder and 116 attempted murder counts plus one count of possession of an explosive device and one count of committing a crime of violence.
The charges mean Holmes is eligible to face the death penalty, although prosecutors have not yet said whether they would seek it in the sensational case.
During the hearing, defense attorney Tamara Brady asked that prosecutors turn over evidence collected in the case. They are seeking a package that news reports have said was sent by Holmes to a University of Colorado psychiatrist, Dr. Lynne Fenton.
Prosecutors responded that they had not yet opened that parcel, which according to Fox News contained a notebook outlining the shooting scenario, including stick-figure drawings.
Holmes, a San Diego native, was a doctoral student of neuroscience at the university's Anschutz campus before filing paperwork to drop out in June.
Court documents filed on Friday by defense lawyers said Holmes had been under Fenton's care.
Also on Thursday, attorneys representing news organizations asked Sylvester to unseal court records and investigative documents that he has closed to public view.
The judge set an August 9 date to consider that issue and said he would hold a hearing on August 16 to determine what evidence should be considered protected between Holmes and his psychiatrist.
Police have not offered a motive for the shooting rampage that stunned the community of Aurora and evoked memories of the 1999 massacre at Columbine High School less than 20 miles (32 kilometres) away in Littleton.
Authorities have said that following his arrest, Holmes had called himself “the Joker” in reference to Batman's comic-book nemesis.
Holmes was armed on the night of the shooting with a Smith & Wesson M&P .223 semi-automatic rifle, similar to an AR-15 assault rifle; a 12-gauge shotgun and a Glock .40-caliber handgun, according to police.
An additional Glock .40-caliber handgun was found in his car. All the weapons had been bought legally in the previous 60 days. - Reuters