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Aurora theater shooting hearing, day 3: James Holmes took photos of himself dressed to kill

Editor's note: Melanie Asmar is covering day three of the preliminary hearing into the July 20 Aurora theater shooting allegedly committed by James Holmes.

Sergeant Matthew Fyles continued his testimony by displaying photos James Holmes took of himself and the future crime scene.

Among the images pulled from Holmes's iPhone were two shots taken on June 29 of what appeared to be the interior of the Century 16 theater, where the attack that killed twelve people and injured seventy others took place. One of the photos was of a door jamb and its hinges, presumably to show "how the door operates," Fyles said.

The Aurora Century 16, where the shooting took place.
The Aurora Century 16, where the shooting took place.

Also displayed were photos of a small plastic piece used to hold tablecloths on picnic tables; previous testimony made note of them. The piece was covered with aquamarine duct tape. Subsequent photos taken by police after the assault showed that what appears to be the same plastic piece was used to prevent the exit door from locking, thereby allowing re-entry.

Another photo from Holmes's iPhone depicted the outside of the theater at night and the purple exit doors. The image was taken at 11:30 p.m. on July 5. And at 12:28 a.m. on July 11, he took another photo of the exit doors.

On July 16 at 8:27 p.m., Holmes apparently took a photo of a table in the living-room of his apartment. The image focused on a small, blond-wood kitchen table with a matching chair. On the table was a potted plant, as well as wires, canisters, bottles and a roll of the aquamarine duct tape. Nine homemade bombs connected by a yellow cord could also be seen on the carpet.

Continue for more coverage of day three of the Aurora theater shooting preliminary hearing.

James Holmes as seen at the only hearing to date at which cameras were allowed.
James Holmes as seen at the only hearing to date at which cameras were allowed.

A series of Holmes's self-portraits were also shown at the hearing. At 4:12 p.m. on July 5, he took a photo of himself that featured his red/orange hair, a scowling expression and what Fyles called the "majority" of the ballistic gear he was found in after the attack. Also in view, possibly slung over his shoulder, was a rifle.

Holmes also appears to have taken several photos in the late afternoon and early evening of July 19, mere hours before the attack. An image time-stamped 5:17 p.m. featured his bed, which was covered in red sheets. On it was his gear: a tactical vest with magazines for the rifle, a gas mask, a helmet, ballistic leggings, the rifle and a shotgun.

At 6:22 p.m., Holmes took a photo of himself in closeup. He wore a black skull cap -- a couple curls of red hair can be seen sticking out near his ears -- and what might be described as a sinister or devilish look on his face. His eyebrows were arched in the photo, and his eyes stood out due to black contact lenses that darkened the entire iris of his eye. The contacts may explain why some of the officers who responded to emergency calls thought that his pupils were dilated.

A photo taken three minutes later showed Holmes without the skull cap, allowing his dyed hair to be seen more clearly. However, he still wore the black contact lenses, set off by what Sergeant Fyles dubbed "a large, toothy smile." He also held one of his handguns in the foreground, at an angle past his chin, the muzzle pointing toward the ceiling.

At 6:31 p.m., Holmes took another photo of himself -- but this time, he held one of the fireworks shells that had been converted into an improvised explosive device. The fuse could be seen sticking out of the shell, and Holmes made a face as if blowing it out.

Continue for more about day three of the Aurora theater shooting preliminary hearing.

Corbin Dates.
Corbin Dates.

Fyles also mentioned the experiences of Corbin Dates, who was at the theater during the July 20 attack. Dates recalled seeing a male sitting in a front-row seat; he wore what Dates thought was a bandana or cap from which reddish hair could be seen sticking out. He watched as the man walked toward the emergency door while apparently talking on the phone -- and at the door, he opened it and stuck his foot out to keep it open.

At that point, Dates left the theater to meet his girlfriend, and when they returned, the man was gone.

After Fyles left the witness stand, Daniel King, Holmes's attorney, stood up and said the defense would not be calling any witnesses at the preliminary hearing. The only reason to have done so, he said, was to feature witnesses who could talk about what he called Holmes's mental illness or mental state. However, he believed the hearing wasn't "the proper venue to put on a show or present some kind of truncated defense."

A break followed, after which Chief Deputy District Attorney Karen Pearson made a statement on behalf of the prosecution. She said the evidence presented at the three-day hearing showed Holmes's "planning, his preparation, his surveillance of the theater, his purchases," as well as his presence at the theater before the evening's movie, The Dark Knight Rises, began to screen, and his use of door stops.

Pearson said Holmes chose as the site for his attack a location where there would be "a number of people in one place who would have great difficulty escaping...a perfect venue for this crime." Had his rifle not jammed, she said, he would have shot many more people, since "he certainly had the ammo." She also argued that his actions showed "a willingness to take life indiscriminately.... He didn't care who he killed or how many he killed, because he wanted to kill them all." As a result, Pearson said, charges of both first-degree murder after deliberation and first-degree murder, extreme indifference, were fully justified.

Holmes faces a total of 166 charges, including two for each person killed or wounded -- one pertaining to either murder or attempted murder with deliberation, and another labeled "extreme indifference."

The defense did not make a statement.

The hearing concluded with Judge William Sylvester setting a new hearing for 9 a.m. on Friday. It will be considered a status hearing and/or an arraignment at which Holmes could enter a plea -- if, as expected, Sylvester determines that there is enough evidence to go to trial.

Throughout the proceedings, Holmes, clad in a red jumpsuit and sporting brown hair and a brown beard, acted as he has throughout the week. Rather than displaying activity or participating in conversations with his attorneys, he mainly sat still, staring straight ahead.

Update: If Holmes enters a plea on Friday, the judge has decided to allow one still camera and one video camera inside the courtroom to capture it. No audio recording will be allowed, however. There haven't been cameras allowed since Holmes's first appearance in court on July 23.

More from our Aurora Theater Shooting archive: "Aurora theater shooting hearing, day two: Youngest victim's story, death of a military man."


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