James Holmes’s preliminary hearing for the July shooting rampage in a Colorado movie theater that left 12 dead ended with the judge saying he will rule by tomorrow on whether to send the case to trial.
Arapahoe County District Judge William Sylvester in state court in Centennial, Colorado, yesterday said there may be an arraignment Jan. 11. Holmes is charged with first-degree murder, which can carry the death penalty, and more than 100 counts of attempted murder. He hasn’t entered a plea.
The hearing began Jan. 7, with prosecutors presenting eyewitnesses and experts in weapons and explosives to describe the July 20 attack and how Holmes allegedly prepared for it. They also played calls to 911 and showed the judge pictures Holmes allegedly took of himself before the attack during a midnight screening of “The Dark Knight Rises.”
Sylvester set a hearing for tomorrow morning and indicated he would rule at or before that hearing whether there is enough evidence to proceed to trial. Sylvester also indicated that if he sends the case to trial, he would ask Holmes to enter a plea tomorrow.
At the hearing yesterday, prosecutors continued presenting evidence to show that Holmes planned the attack beforehand. The judge was shown photos of Holmes found on his mobile phone.
“He intended to kill,” prosecutor Karen Pearson said in her closing statement. “He didn’t care who he killed.”
While the defense didn’t call any witnesses, Holmes’s lawyers again raised the issue of mental illness.
Defense attorney Daniel King said he was limited in presenting evidence “relevant to Mr. Holmes’ mental illness, or rather, mental state.”
King said that because the issue at the hearing is whether there is probable cause to believe a crime was committed, “this is neither the proper venue, nor the time” to “put on a show or some truncated defense.”
Four photos found on Holmes’s iPhone appeared to be of the interior and exterior of the movie theater, Aurora police sergeant Matthew Fyles testified. They were taken on June 29, July 5 and July 11, Fyles said.
When the prosecution moved to introduce as evidence a batch of photos that included Holmes himself, the defense objected.
“Your honor, they go to identity and deliberation and extreme indifference,” Pearson said.
The judge allowed the photos. In one, Holmes wore black contact lenses and stuck his tongue out. He also had on a black skullcap with a lick of hair peeking out on each side of his head. Fyles said that photo was taken on July 19 at about 6:30 p.m., a few hours before the shooting.
Other photos showed Holmes posing with guns, tactical gear and improvised explosives like the items that police said they later found on him, at the theater and at his apartment.
Pearson said all the evidence, including Holmes’s photos of the theater and blood in police cars from transporting the injured to the hospital, showed that the defendant deliberated over the shooting and intended to kill everyone in theater No. 9.
The prosecutor also said that Holmes could have been charged with attempted murder on everyone in theater No. 8 because some people there were also injured by gunfire. He could have faced as many as 1,500 counts of attempted murder, she said.
“There weren’t ever going to be enough ambulances,” Pearson told the judge.
Craig Silverman, a former prosecutor who is now a Denver criminal-defense attorney, said in an interview after watching some of the preliminary hearing that the judge will move the case to trial.
“The prosecution is going to win,” he said. “I doubt that a single charge will be thrown out.”
While the defense can ask for a delay if asked to enter a plea this week, Silverman said, he expects the eventual plea to be not guilty by reason of insanity based in part on some of the issues the defense raised during the preliminary hearing.
“This is not the hardest thing in the world to predict,” he said.
An insanity plea could be difficult for prosecutors because in Colorado they have to disprove it beyond a reasonable doubt, Silverman said.
“It’s tougher in Colorado to deal with an insanity defense,” he said. “At the same time, jurors generally don’t like an insanity defense.”
The case is People v. Holmes, 12-cr-01522, 18th Judicial District Court, Colorado (Centennial).