A preliminary hearing started today for James Holmes, the 25-year-old former graduate student charged with killing 12 and wounding 58 people last July during a screening of “Batman” at a Colorado movie theater. During the hearing, which is expected to last one week, prosecutors must convince the judge they have sufficient evidence to put Holmes on trial.
Up until now many of the facts surrounding the shooting were suppressed under a court-imposed gag order, so the hearing may give the public new insight into the horrific event and a glimpse of both the prosecution and defense’s cases. It is anticipated Holme’s lawyers will file an insanity plea, and their plan to call witnesses to testify about Holme’s state of mind further supports this assumption. Also, leading up to the hearing, defense lawyers commented that Holmes was mentally disturbed and had seen a psychiatrist.
Today, victims and families of victims were present in the courtroom, with some describing the situation as having to come “face the devil.” *Aurora police officers, Jason Oviatt and Aaron Blue, who initially responded to the shooting, were the first to take the stand.
Oviatt testified seeing “a trail of blood that led to the theater,” when he first confronted Holmes in the theater parking lot. According to Oviatt, Holmes “immediately put his hands up” when ordered to freeze and surrender and was “very, very relaxed.”
“These were not normal reactions to anything,” Oviatt said. “He seemed very detached from it all.”
Holmes appeared equally detached at the hearing, sitting impassively and offering no reaction to any of the testimony. He wore a red jumpsuit, had brown hair, and a full beard.
It is unclear whether prosecutors intend on seeking the death penalty; however, if Holmes pleads not guilty, they have 60 days to make a decision.
Before last month’s tragic school shooting in Newtown, Connecticut, the Aurora theater massacre was the deadliest U.S. shooting in 2012. Both incidents, along with a string of other acts of gun violence, have sparked an intense debate across the country over gun laws.