Colorado gunman in court over 12 killings at Denver cinema

Friday 11 January 2013 18.44
James Holmes has been described by his own lawyers as suffering from an unspecified mental illness
James Holmes has been described by his own lawyers as suffering from an unspecified mental illness

Accused Colorado cinema gunman James Holmes made a brief court appearance again today.

This comes a day after he was ordered to face trial.

His lawyers asked for more time to prepare for a plea to charges that he shot 12 people to death and wounded dozens of others.

A Colorado state court judge granted a defence request to postpone arraignment for the 25-year-old former doctoral student in neuroscience.

The postponement is to give his legal team more time to study the voluminous evidence and testimony presented by prosecutors during a preliminary hearing in the case earlier this week.

The arraignment was set for 12 March.

At the conclusion of today's brief proceedings, a spectator sitting in the section of the Arapahoe County district courtroom reserved for victims and their families shouted: "Rot in hell, Holmes!"

There was no visible reaction by Holmes, who was being led out of the courtroom.

The judge, William Sylvester, held a short private conference with lawyers in the hallway.

He reconvened the hearing to address the outburst, admonishing the spectator, Steve Hernandez, whose daughter perished in the massacre.

Speaking to Mr Hernandez Judge Sylvester said: "I can only begin to imagine the emotions that are raging. I'm truly sorry for your loss," the judge told Hernandez.

Mr Hernandez replied: "I meant no disrespect to the court," and promised "no further outbursts."

Judge Sylvester ruled yesterday that prosecutors succeeded in establishing probable cause to believe that Mr Holmes, described by his own lawyers as suffering from an unspecified mental illness, committed the crimes alleged against him and ordered that he remain held without bail to stand trial.

The ruling followed three days of wrenching testimony about the shooting, its bloody aftermath and the elaborate preparations that Mr Holmes is accused of making for the attack.

Mr Holmes is charged with multiple counts of first-degree murder and attempted murder stemming from the 20 July rampage at the midnight screening of the Batman film "The Dark Knight Rises" in the Denver suburb of Aurora.

In addition to the 12 people who died, 58 others were injured by gunfire and a dozen more suffered other injuries.

The tragedy stands as one of the deadliest mass shootings in US history and one that ranked briefly as the most lethal in 2012 - until 20 children and six adults were killed last month at a Connecticut elementary school.

Some legal experts say the proceedings left Mr Holmes' lawyers little choice but to mount an insanity defense for their client.

Once Holmes enters a plea, prosecutors will have 60 days to decide whether they will seek the death penalty.