The Daily Item, Sunbury, PA

News

January 9, 2013

Colorado theater shooting "mini-trial" ends

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 attest to 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 day.

Cases rarely advance to this stage without a judge agreeing to set a trial.

Prosecutors argued that they had shown that Holmes acted with deliberation and extreme indifference, on Wednesday showing photos they say Holmes took of himself the night of the attack.

He wore black contact lenses, stuck out his tongue, smiled and posed with a Glock.

Defense attorneys decided not call any witnesses, saying the rules of the preliminary hearing severely limited what evidence they could present. They had been granted permission to call two people to talk about Holmes' mental state.

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.

On Wednesday, police also showed pictures of the theater they say Holmes took a month before the attack that killed 12 and injured 70. One photo 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.

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.

There is not, the agent replied.

On Tuesday, the case was dominated by the litany of Holmes' preparations. He spent months amassing tear gas grenades, two Glock handguns, a shotgun and an AR-15 rifle, along with 6,295 rounds of ammunition, targets, body armor and chemicals, prosecutors said. He also purchased chemicals including improvised napalm, as well as thermite, a substance which burns so hot that water can't extinguish the blaze.

Holmes' purchases were for two planned attacks, prosecutors said — the theater shooting and the booby-trapped apartment that would have blown up if anyone had entered.

The attempt at a distraction speaks to a plan to escape, but the traps weren't triggered. Holmes, clad from head to toe in body armor, was found standing by his car outside the theater. He told investigators that the booby-trapped apartment was an effort to pull police away from the theater. He didn't expect to see officers so quickly.

Police said he volunteered information about the booby traps. Authorities went to the apartment and carefully dismantled them.

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 will 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.

 

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