James Holmes fit for trial in Aurora theater shooting, judge rules

8:23 PM, Jan 10, 2013   |    comments
James Holmes (Getty Images)
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Gary Strauss, USA TODAY

CENTENNIAL, Colo. - After hearing three days of hearing overwhelming testimony against accused mass murderer James Holmes, a judge ruled Thursday that there is ample evidence to try the former University of Colorado doctoral program candidate on a slew of first degree murder and attempted murder for the July movie theater shooting spree that killed 12 and injuring nearly 60.

Arapahoe County District Judge William Sylvester made the ruling late Thursday and ordered a January 11 arraignment hearing for Holmes, who faces more than 160 counts of first degree murder and attempted murder. Holmes remains held without bond.

Arapahoe County prosecutors had presented overwhelming evidence against Holmes, 25, records showing he had purchased guns used in the July 20 shooting, video taken by theater surveillance cameras that showed him entered the movie complex about a half hour before the shootings, and self-portraits taken with a cell phone just hours before the shooting.

The pictures showed Holmes eerily grinning, sticking his tongue out and wearing black contact lenses while he holds a handgun, assault rifle and homemade bomb, prosecutors said Wednesday.

Aurora Police also found cell phone photos taken by Holmes that showed he had cased out the theater at least three times in the weeks before the shootings.

Arapahoe County prosecutor Karen Pearson said along with other photos, along with video placing Holmes at the theater, records of weapons and ammunition purchases in the weeks of the shooting and other evidence "go to identity, deliberation and extreme indifference'' under the charges. "He knew what he was doing,'' Pearson said Wednesday.

"He picked a perfect venue for his crime, where people were packed in and where there would be great difficulty for escape,'' she said. "Had his (assault rifle) not jammed, he would have shot a lot more people. He had ample ammunition to do so."

Besides the chilling self-potraits of Holmes mugging with weapons and homemade explosives hours before the shooting spree, prosecutors say another series of cell phone photos taken earlier by Holmes show that he had checked out the theater on at least three separate occasions in the weeks before the shootings. Two of interior photos were taken on June 29.

Aurora police Detective Matthew Fyles said Holmes took an additional photo of the rear of the building at 11:30 p.m. July 5 and another photo of the complex's outer doors at 12:28 a.m. July 11.

Police said earlier in the hearing that Holmes purchased a ticket online July 8 for the July 20 midnight showing of The Dark Knight Rises.

On Tuesday, prosecutors played theater surveillance video that showed Holmes entering the theater shortly past midnight. Police say he later exited an emergency door, propped it open and went to his car in the rear parking lot, where he dressed in tactical gear and armed himself.

He then returned to the building and opened fire on the crowded theater.

Survivors of the shooting who attended the hearing said they were startled by Holmes' demeanor in the cell phone photos, which alternately showed him smiling or mugging for the camera.

"It shows he had planned this all along, that he knew what he was doing,'' said Yousef Gharbi, who was shot in the right temple. He recalls wiping away blood before passing out. He later awoke in the hospital.

The 17-year-old high school senior came to court hoping to learn Holmes' motive. He didn't come away from the hearings with any answers, but says he hopes Holmes doesn't escape prison or a death sentence by pleading insanity.

"Those pictures he took of himself? He thought it was a joke,'' said Gharbi, who says he still suffers from anxiety attacks. "He knew what he was doing."

Tom Teves, whose son Alex was among those killed, said Holmes' odd behavior following the shootings is a ruse.

"He's playing everyone,'' said Teves, who attended the hearing with his wife, Caren.


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