• BREAKING NEWS ABC shows live and on-demand -- Download the WATCH ABC app!

Aurora theater shooting suspect formally charged with 24 counts of murder

July 30, 2012 12:00:00 AM PDT
Colorado prosecutors on Monday formally charged James Holmes with 24 counts of murder in the Aurora movie theater shooting.

Holmes, 24, was also formally charged with 116 counts of attempted murder, one count of possession of an explosive device and one sentence enhancer.

The former doctorate student is accused of opening fire in a movie theater during a midnight showing of "The Dark Knight Rises" on July 20. Twelve people were killed and 58 people were wounded or injured.

Holmes faces two first-degree murder charges for each of the 12 people killed: one for acting with deliberation and intent and the second for displaying "an attitude of universal malice manifesting extreme indifference to the value of human life." That way the jury can find him guilty under either theory, and either can get him the death penalty.

Similarly, he's charged twice with attempted murder for each of the 58 victims who were wounded or injured in the shooting. He's also charged with one count of committing a crime of violence and one count of possession of explosives.

See an outline of events and facts surrounding the Colorado theater shooting

Holmes walked into the courtroom dressed in a maroon-colored jail jumpsuit; his hair was still a pinkish-orange color. He appeared just as dazed as he did his first court appearance last week, sometimes staring down into his lap and sometimes getting very wide-eyed and raising his eyebrows.

Monday's hearing was not televised. At the request of the defense, District Chief Judge William Sylvester barred video and still cameras from the hearing, saying expanded coverage could interfere with Holmes' right to a fair trial.

The only time Holmes spoke was to respond "Yes" to Sylvester. Sylvester asked the defense team if Holmes would waive his right to a preliminary hearing within 30 days. Holmes and public defender Daniel King conferred, and then King announced that they would waive the 30 days. Sylvester then said to Holmes, "Is that correct Mr. Holmes," to which Holmes replied, "Yes."

When the judge mentioned the death penalty, Holmes looked right at him for the first time.

Attorneys also argued over a defense motion to find out who leaked information to the news media. The information included details about a notebook the former neuroscience student allegedly sent to his psychiatrist at the University of Colorado Denver.

Legal analysts said the case is expected to be dominated by arguments over the defendant's sanity. Experts said there are two levels of insanity defenses. Holmes' public defenders could argue he is not mentally competent to stand trial, which is the argument by lawyers for Jared Loughner, who is accused of killing six people in 2011 in Tucson, Ariz., and wounding several others, including Rep. Gabrielle Giffords.

Read statements from public officials about the Colorado theater shooting

If Holmes' attorneys cannot convince the court that he is mentally incompetent, and he is convicted, they can try to stave off a possible death penalty by arguing he is mentally ill. Prosecutors will decide whether to seek the death penalty in the coming weeks.

Holmes was not expected to enter pleas on Monday. His next hearing has been scheduled for Aug. 9.

View photos from the scene of the shooting at an Aurora, Colo. theater

The Associated Press contributed to this report.


Load Comments