Colorado theater shooting ‘mini-trial’ ends
By DAN ELLIOTT
The Associated Press | January 10,2013
Chantel Blunk, left, is escorted by a victims assistant as she arrives for the third day of a preliminary hearing for Aurora theater shooting suspect James Holmes at the courthouse in Centennial, Colo., on Wednesday. Chantel’s husband Jon was killed in the shooting.
CENTENNIAL, Colo. — A hearing laying out the evidence against the accused gunman in the Colorado theater shooting ended Wednesday with the defense deciding not to call witnesses to explain James Holmes’ mental health.
The judge said he will rule by Friday on whether Holmes should stand trial. If the judge decides he should be tried, Holmes could enter a plea at a hearing scheduled that morning.
Prosecutors argued that they had shown that Holmes acted with deliberation and extreme indifference, presenting evidence that he cased the theater before the July 20 shooting, which left 12 people dead and 70 injured. They also showed photographs they say Holmes took of himself and his arsenal hours before the attack.
The cellphone photos include one of Holmes sticking his tongue out. His eyes are narrowed. He is wearing a black shirt and black skullcap. On either side of his head are curls of red hair protruding up that look like horns.
Sgt. Matthew Fyles testified that Holmes wore black contact lenses at the time the photo was taken at 6:22 p.m. on July 19.
In another photo taken that evening, Holmes is grinning at the camera without a cap, his orange hair fully displayed. The muzzle of one of the Glock pistols is below his face.
In the third photo, Holmes looks at the camera with pursed lips. He is holding one of the black, spherical objects that officials described as a pyrotechnic shell used to booby-trap his apartment. Protruding from top is a red and white-striped fuse. It appears that he’s blowing it out as if it were a candle.
Another photo shows Holmes’ bed. On the bed is the tactical vest, .223 caliber magazines, magazines for the pistols, a gas mask, a Glock in a holster, a ballistic helmet, jacket and pants, an assault rifle, a shotgun, a bag that could be used to carry magazines and a carry-all bag.
Police also showed pictures of the theater they say Holmes took starting about a month before the shooting. The first one, taken on June 29, shows an exit door that looks like the one police say Holmes propped open the night of the shooting so he could re-enter the theater after getting weapons from his car.
Fyles testified that witness saw a man with red hair walk toward the emergency door, apparently on the phone, during the previews shown before “The Dark Knight Returns.” He said Holmes propped open the door with modified clips used to secure outdoor tablecloths; they had been wrapped with aqua-green duct tape to make them sturdier.
Prosecutor Karen Pearson said Holmes picked the perfect venue for his alleged crime.
“He didn’t care who he killed or how many he killed, because he wanted to kill all of them,” she said.
Defense attorneys had won unusual permission to call two witnesses during the hearing but changed their minds, saying the rules of the preliminary hearing severely limited what evidence they could present.
His lawyers are expected to present an insanity defense. They have previously stated that Holmes, 25, is mentally ill. Defense lawyer Tamara Brady pointedly asked a federal Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives agent in court Tuesday whether any Colorado law prevented “a severely mentally ill person” from buying the 6,295 rounds of ammunition, body armor and handcuffs that Holmes purchased online.
There is not, the agent replied.
Should the judge order a trail, it’s also possible Holmes could seek a plea agreement.
Holmes’ lawyers could have waived the preliminary hearing. Legal analysts say allowing the evidence to be aired publicly gave them a chance to assess the case’s strengths and weaknesses, setting the stage for a possible deal. A deal would also avoid having victims’ families sit through more emotional testimony about the carnage.
If Holmes is found sane, goes to trial and is convicted, his attorneys can try to stave off a possible death penalty by arguing he is mentally ill. Prosecutors have yet to say whether they would seek the death penalty.
If he’s found not guilty by reason of insanity, he would likely be sent to the state mental hospital, not prison. Such a defendant is deemed not guilty because he didn’t know right from wrong and is therefore “absolved” of the crime, said former Jefferson County District Attorney Scott Storey.
Last year, Bruco Strong Eagle Eastwood was acquitted by reason of insanity of attempted first-degree murder in the wounding of two eighth-graders outside a school not far from Columbine High School. Eastwood is spending time in a mental hospital. His case will be reviewed every six months until he’s deemed sane and released.