Judge delays arraignment in Colo. theater shooting
CENTENNIAL, Colo. (AP) – A judge on Friday delayed the arraignment of the man charged with the Colorado theater shooting until March.
District Judge William Sylvester ruled Thursday night that prosecutors had presented sufficient evidence to proceed with charges alleging that James Holmes killed 12 people and injured 70 others at a suburban Denver movie theater on July 20.
Holmes is charged with multiple counts of first-degree murder and attempted murder.
Holmes won’t have to enter a plea until March 12 after the judge granted a defense motion to delay that proceeding.
A majority of the families of the victims objected to the delay.
An unidentified man seated in the courtroom yelled “Rot in hell Holmes” at the end of the hearing. The judge reconvened the proceedings to discuss the outburst
Defense lawyers didn’t give a reason for the delay.
One possible reason could be to seek a mental health evaluation by a doctor of their choosing. His lawyers have said Holmes is mentally ill, raising the possibility of an insanity defense.
If Holmes had entered an insanity plea, an evaluation would be done by state doctors.
Holmes’ attorneys also objected to news media requests to bring cameras into the courtroom during the arraignment. Cameras have been barred from court since Holmes’ initial appearance in July.
If Holmes, 25, is convicted of first-degree murder, he could face the death penalty. Prosecutors have not said whether they would pursue that sentence.
At a preliminary hearing this week, prosecution witnesses testified that Holmes spent weeks amassing an arsenal and planning the attack at a midnight showing of “The Dark Knight Rises.” They also detailed an elaborate setup at Holmes’ apartment designed to explode at the same time as the theater attack several miles away.
Prosecution witnesses testified that Holmes began acquiring weapons in early May and by July 6 had two semi-automatic pistols, a shotgun, a semi-automatic rifle, 6,200 rounds of ammunition and high-capacity magazines that allow a shooter to fire more rounds without stopping to reload.
Holmes’ lawyers called no witnesses this week. They have said he is mentally ill.
The defense motion suggested the possibility of more delays in the case.
If Holmes were to be found incompetent, the case would come to a halt while he receives psychiatric treatment at the state mental hospital. He would remain there until doctors can restore him to competency, at which point the case would continue.
Once the judge rules Holmes is competent – either immediately after a competency hearing or after psychiatric treatment – and any other delays are resolved, Holmes would then enter a plea.
This happened with Jared Loughner in the Tucson, Ariz., shooting that killed six people and wounded 13, including then-Rep. Gabrielle Giffords. A federal judge ruled Loughner was incompetent to stand trial. After more than a year in treatment, Loughner was ruled competent, the case proceeded, and he entered guilty pleas. He is serving life in prison.
Ultimately, Holmes was widely expected to plead either not guilty or – more likely – not guilty by reason of insanity.
If found not guilty by reason of insanity, Holmes would be committed to the state mental hospital for treatment. His case would be reviewed every six months. He conceivably could be released if he ever is deemed no longer insane.
“Insanity is what this case is going to turn on,” said Denver criminal defense attorney Dan Recht. “This is not a whodunit case.”
Associated Press writer P. Solomon Banda contributed to this report.
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