By Keith Coffman
DENVER, Jan 10 (Reuters) - A Colorado judge ordered accused
movie theater gunman James Holmes on Thursday to stand trial on
charges he killed 12 people and wounded dozens more in a
shooting rampage at a midnight screening of a Batman movie last
The ruling followed three days of emotionally wrenching
prosecution testimony about the shooting, its bloody aftermath
and the elaborate preparations that Holmes is accused of making
for the attack.
Arapahoe County District Judge William Sylvester ruled that
evidence presented during the preliminary hearing had
established probable cause to believe that Holmes, 25, committed
the crimes, and ordered him bound for trial on all counts.
He said Holmes, who has been described by his own lawyers as
suffering from an unspecified mental illness, should continue to
be held without bail.
Some legal experts say this week's proceedings left Holmes'
lawyers with little choice but to mount an insanity defense for
"The defense team has nowhere else to go given the obvious
premeditation and overwhelming evidence against Holmes," said
Craig Silverman, a former Denver prosecutor now in private
practice as a trial attorney.
The former neuroscience doctoral student is charged with 24
counts of first-degree murder and 140 counts of attempted murder
stemming from the July 20 rampage at the opening of "The Dark
Knight Rises" in the Denver suburb of Aurora.
In addition to the 12 people who died, 58 others were
wounded by gunfire and a dozen more suffered other injuries.
Prosecutors essentially charged Holmes twice for each
victim, once for committing a crime "after deliberation" and
again for "malice manifesting extreme indifference to human
The movie house rampage stands as one of the most lethal
mass shootings in U.S. history and one that ranked briefly as
the deadliest in 2012 - until 20 children and six adults were
killed last month at a Connecticut elementary school.
DEFENSE TO SEEK POSTPONEMENT OF PLEA
Assuming Holmes enters a plea of not guilty, the prosecution
will then have 60 days to decide whether to seek the death
penalty. But defense attorneys who will return to court on
Friday were expected to ask that the arraignment be postponed.
In documents filed on Thursday opposing a media request to
allow cameras in the courtroom - as Colorado judges can permit
for arraignments - Holmes' team said they were not prepared to
enter a plea in the sensational case.
Holmes is accused of entering Theater 9 of the Century 16
multiplex with a ticket he bought 12 days in advance, then
leaving through a rear exit minutes into the movie and
re-entering moments later wearing body armor and a gas mask.
Armed with a shotgun, pistol and semi-automatic rifle,
authorities say, Holmes lobbed a tear gas canister into the
auditorium and sprayed moviegoers with bullets until one of his
guns jammed, then surrendered to police without a struggle in
the parking lot behind the theater.
Police testified that Holmes began assembling his collection
of guns and ammunition two months before the shooting, scouted
out the multiplex weeks ahead of time, and took photos of his
arsenal and of himself posed with weapons and body armor.
Holmes had also booby-trapped his apartment near the theater
with explosives, which police said he intended as a diversion to
draw authorities away from the movie house while he was carrying
out his assault. The bombs were later defused safely.
Officers called to the theater that night recounted a scene
of shooting victims sprawled across a darkened, blood-soaked
auditorium as the movie continued to play on the screen and
emergency strobe lights flashed.
Holmes' lawyers made no attempt during the preliminary
hearing to challenge the case laid out by the prosecution and
declined to present evidence or witnesses of their own.
What few points defense lawyers did make through
cross-examination appeared to be aimed at calling attention to
the erratic behavior of their client.
A homicide detective acknowledged under defense questioning
that Holmes tried to insert a staple into an electrical outlet
while being interrogated at police headquarters.
During that interview, in which Holmes had plastic bags
placed over his hands to preserve any traces of gunpowder
residue, Holmes also gestured with one of the bags as if it were
a talking hand puppet, the detective testified.
Follow us on Twitter @ReutersLegal | Like us on Facebook