Thursday, January 18, 2018

Charges filed in Colorado massacre

CENTENNIAL, Colo. — Prosecutors on Monday filed 142 charges, including 24 counts of first-degree murder, against James Holmes, the former graduate student who is accused of killing 12 people and injuring 58 at an Aurora, Colo., movie theater.

In addition to first-degree murder, Holmes, 24, 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.

The charging document also listed, for the first time, the names of all of the victims of the attack.

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.

In the 45 minutes that Holmes was in the courtroom Monday, he appeared dazed. A light-colored beard had grown on his cheeks since he last appeared in court.

Holmes was emotionless, and his eyelids seemed heavy. He mostly sat back in his chair, sometimes swaying side to side during the proceedings. His gaze often drifted to one of the eight officers stationed in the courtroom, the attorneys or the judge. At one point, he stared at the ceiling. At another, he closed his eyes as if dozing off. He spoke only once, when Colorado District Judge William Blair Sylvester asked him whether he understood that his attorneys had waived a time restriction for his preliminary hearing.

"Yes," Holmes said.

Sylvester set Aug. 16 as the date to hear a motion to determine whether information contained in a package that Holmes allegedly sent to a University of Colorado at Denver psychiatrist before the shooting is privileged. News reports described a notebook in the package 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.

Hours before Monday's hearing was set to begin, reporters set up camp in the parking lot of the district courthouse, about 15 miles south of the Century 16 movie theater where the massacre occurred. At Holmes's last hearing, cameras were allowed in the courtroom, and commentators later picked apart the suspect's behavior and facial expressions. For Monday's hearing, Sylvester barred cameras and all electronic equipment from the courtroom.

Dozens of witnesses and relatives of victims, along with a few victims themselves, attended the hearing.

Those at the courthouse Monday included an apparent victim who was 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, Moser's aunt and a retired principal. Unlike at the previous hearing, which Hansen said she also watched, Holmes seemed more alert and aware of what was happening Monday, she said.

Ashley Moser, who was pregnant, has suffered a miscarriage since the shooting, according to her relatives, and she is paralyzed from the waist down. In addition to losing her daughter and an unborn child, Moser also has lost her dream of becoming a nurse, her aunt said.

Don Lader, 25, was at the courthouse wearing a black Dark Knight Rises T-shirt. Although he and his wife escaped the theater that night, Lader said they have been back to see the movie twice "to prove that we could sit down and watch and enjoy." Lader said he has been obsessively researching what happened and wanted to see Holmes in the courtroom.

"It is going to be a long process," said Lader, a former Marine who plans to start law school in California in January. "There are going to be a lot of triggers. I hope that those personally involved take care of themselves. I don't want to see this individual claim another life."

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