The man accused of killing 12 people and injuring 58 in a shooting spree at an Aurora, Colorado, movie theater was charged with 24 counts of first-degree murder in addition to nearly 120 other charges on Monday during his second court appearance in the case.
James Eagan Holmes , 24, was hit with two different first-degree murder charges for each of the victims in the case (one for intentional murder, the other for depraved and indifferent actions leading to murder), as well as 116 counts of attempted murder, one count of possession of an explosive device and one count of a sentence enhancer for a crime of violence, according to the Denver Post.
Holmes, who appeared dazed and unfocused when he was led into a Denver-area courtroom last week sporting a wild mane of orange/red hair, was reportedly less spaced-out this time, but again did not address the court. He is accused of opening fire in a sold-out midnight screening of “The Dark Knight Rises” on July 20. When asked if he agreed to waive his right to a preliminary hearing within 35 days, Holmes made his only comment of the day and said “yes.”
His attorneys asked for more time in the case, given the huge number of charges and victims, which will likely push the preliminary hearing back by several weeks. The next hearing in the case is on August 9, when Judge William Sylvester will address media requests to unseal the case file.
The additional explosives charges came in connection with the elaborately booby-trapped apartment that Holmes tipped police off to after his arrest. Police found dozens of improvised explosives, trip wires, gallons of gasoline and fireworks-like shells intended to set off an explosion at the same time the former neuroscience graduate student was allegedly opening fire on patrons at the theater.
Sylvester has sealed most of the court records and investigative documents from the public and put a gag order that bars anyone involved with the case from speaking to the media. Last week, it was revealed that Holmes was under the care of psychiatrist Dr. Lynne Fenton at the University of Colorado-Denver’s Anschutz Medical Campus and that he allegedly sent a package to Fenton before the rampage.
The hearing was also slated to feature arguments about a defense motion to find out who leaked the information about the package, which was seized by authorities on July 23, three days after the shooting. That debate was postponed to a later date.
Monday’s charging was the first step in what is expected to be a long, painful process of bringing Holmes to court. It could be up to a year before opening arguments in the case. It is possible, however, that it may never get that far if Holmes’ attorneys argue that he is not mentally competent to stand trial. If an insanity plea doesn’t work, however, he might still avoid the death penalty if his defense team argues that he’s mentally ill.
Prosecutors said they will decide whether to seek the death penalty over the next few weeks after consulting with the families of victims. The minimum sentence Holmes could face is life in prison without parole.