US: James Holmes charged with 24 counts of murder

Last Updated: Tuesday, July 31, 2012 - 00:02

Zeenews Bureau

Centennial: Alleged Colorado shooter, James Holmes, was on Monday charged with 12 charges of first-degree murder, 12 charges of murder with extreme indifference in the shooting rampage at the midnight showing of the new Batman movie.

The 24-year-old former neuroscience graduate student was also formally charged with 116 counts of attempted murder.

Among the 142 criminal charges on the charge sheet, Holmes faces one count of possessing an explosive or incendiary device.

Holmes appeared just as dazed as he did in his first court appearance last week, but at one point exchanged a few words with one of his attorneys in the packed courtroom.

The breakdown of the charges was not immediately clear.

The attack at "The Dark Knight Rises" left 12 people dead and 58 others injured. After his arrest, police said they found that his apartment was booby trapped.

Legal analysts expect the case to be dominated by arguments over the defendant`s sanity.

Unlike Holmes` first court appearance on July 23, Monday`s hearing was not televised. At the request of the defence, District Chief Judge William Sylvester barred video and still cameras from the hearing, saying expanded coverage could interfere with Holmes` right to a fair trial.

Last week, Sylvester allowed a live video feed that permitted the world its first glimpse of the shooting suspect. With an unruly mop of orange hair, Holmes appeared bleary-eyed and distracted. He did not speak.

Attorneys also were arguing over a defence motion to find out who leaked information to the news media about a package the 24-year-old Holmes allegedly sent to his psychiatrist at the University of Colorado Denver.

Authorities seized the package on July 23, three days after the shooting, after finding it in the mailroom of the medical campus where Holmes studied. Several media outlets reported that it contained a notebook with descriptions of an attack, but Arapahoe County District Attorney Carol Chambers said in court papers that the parcel hadn`t been opened by the time the "inaccurate" news reports appeared.

Security was tight for Monday`s hearing. Armed officers were stationed on the roof of both buildings at the court complex, and law enforcement vehicles blocked entrances to the buildings.

Investigators said Holmes began stockpiling gear for his assault four months ago and bought his weapons in May and June, well before the shooting spree just after midnight during a showing of the Batman film "The Dark Knight Rises." He was arrested by police outside the theatre.

Analysts said that means it`s likely there`s only one main point of legal dispute between prosecutors and the defence.

"I don`t think it`s too hard to predict the path of this proceeding," said Craig Silverman, a former chief deputy district attorney in Denver. "This is not a whodunit. ... The only possible defence is insanity."

Under Colorado law, defendants are not legally liable for their acts if their minds are so "diseased" that they cannot distinguish between right and wrong. However, the law warns that "care should be taken not to confuse such mental disease or defect with moral obliquity, mental depravity, or passion growing out of anger, revenge, hatred, or other motives, and kindred evil conditions."

Experts said there are two levels of insanity defences.

Holmes` public defenders could argue he is not mentally competent to stand trial, which is the argument by lawyers for Jared Loughner, who is accused of killing six people in 2011 in Tucson, Arizona, and wounding several others, including Republican Gabrielle Giffords. Loughner, who has pleaded not guilty to 49 charges, has been diagnosed with schizophrenia and is undergoing treatment at a Missouri prison facility in a bid to make him mentally fit to stand trial.

If Holmes` attorneys cannot convince the court that he is mentally incompetent, and he is convicted, they can try to stave off a possible death penalty by arguing he is mentally ill. Prosecutors will decide whether to seek the death penalty in the coming weeks.

Holmes was not expected to enter pleas on Monday.

He ultimately could verbally enter a plea to the anticipated dozen first-degree murder charges, or his attorneys could enter it for him. Prosecutors may file multiple counts of attempted first-degree murder and other charges against Holmes, who booby trapped his apartment with the intent to kill any officers responding there the night of the theatre attack, Aurora police said.

(With Agency inputs)



First Published: Monday, July 30, 2012 - 14:06

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