James Holmes hearing: "Rot in hell, Holmes" outburst prompts judge to reconvene hearing
This morning, Judge William Sylvester granted a defense motion to continue the arraignment of alleged Aurora theater shooter James Holmes until the week of March 12. But just after the brief hearing was adjourned, a man later identified as Steve Hernandez, father of victim Rebecca Wingo, who died in the July 20 attack, said loudly, "Rot in hell, Holmes," prompting Sylvester to call everyone back into the courtroom.
Holmes was at today's hearing and may have still been in the room when Hernandez made his comment.
Hernandez was detained by sheriff's deputies. After everyone had reentered the courtroom, including Holmes, Sylvester explained that he had called them back because "we had an outburst. What I heard was somebody from the gallery shouting, 'Rot in hell, Holmes.'" Members of the prosecution and defense teams, with whom Sylvester said he had consulted before reconvening, both said they'd heard the same thing.
At that point, Sylvester directly addressed Hernandez, who stood near the low wall separating the gallery from the area reserved for the judge, the attorneys and the defendant. "I'm terribly sorry for your loss," Sylvester said, "I can only begin to imagine the emotions" coursing through him at the hearing.
"I meant no disrespect to the court or your honor," Hernandez said, after which Sylvester asked if he thought he could refrain from future outbursts. Hernandez responded in the affirmative.
Afterward, Sylvester noted that he had heard some noises at another point during the proceedings, when the defense counsel requested the continuance until March. A number of people in attendance responded with grumbling that echoed the response to a survey of victims conducted last night, when several were contacted after Sylvester announced that the trial would move forward. Jacob Edson, one of the prosecutors, said 84 victims who'd been contacted objected to a continuance, six took no position and three did not object.
Audible reactions of this sort would not be tolerated, either, Sylvester stressed, adding, "There needs to be a proper amount of dignity" to the proceedings. He said he'd instructed sheriff's deputies to remove anyone making noise or comments in the future.
Continue for more about today's hearing. The next hearing related to the case will take place on February 4. The subject will be the subpoena targeting a Fox News journalist who unveiled information about a notebook found after the shootings. Fox News reported that among other things, the notebook contained what appeared to be sketches related to the subsequent attack on the theater.
George Brauchler addresses the media.
Photo by Melanie Asmar
Also scheduled was the aforementioned March arraignment -- and Sylvester reserved the entire week beginning on Tuesday, March 12, for any motions that may precede it. Those may include questions about cameras in the courtroom. The defense had objected to cameras at today's hearing, but the prospect of them being allowed at the future hearing was not addressed.
Once the hearing ended for a final time, new 18th Judicial District DA George Brauchler made a brief statement to the assembled media and a man holding a giant sign reading "Fully Informed Jury Association" who protested before and afterward. (He did not appear to be associated with the theater shooting case.) Brauchler explained why he could not offer a detailed response or answer questions about the preliminary hearing or the events of today, saying, "I want to protect the interests of all involved in this case."
More from our Aurora Theater Shooting archive: "Photos: The twelve Aurora theater shooting victims (16-27)."
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