Boulder King Soopers Shooting: Mental Illness Claim, Call for Delay

Ahmad Al Aliwi Alissa during a brief court appearance on March 25.
10 Tampa Bay via YouTube
Ahmad Al Aliwi Alissa during a brief court appearance on March 25.
Ahmad Al Aliwi Alissa, 21, the accused shooter in the March 22 attack on a Boulder King Soopers that left ten people dead, made his first court appearance at 8:15 a.m. Thursday, March 25. And while the hearing was brief and Alissa's only utterance, to confirm that he understood his rights, was practically inaudible, his public defenders made it clear that possible mental illness will be at the center of the case.

The legal process won't be a speedy one, since Alissa waived his right to a preliminary hearing within 35 days. Boulder County District Judge Thomas Mulvahill plans to schedule a status hearing to take place within the next sixty to ninety days.

Owing to COVID-19 safety protocols, members of the media viewed the proceedings through the Webex platform. As hundreds of journalists logged in, they saw a placard placed before a camera reading: "Please turn off your camera and mute your microphone. No person shall record, broadcast or take screenshots/screen grabs of today's proceedings on Webex, unless they have expressly been granted permission to do so under an Order authorizing Expanded Media Coverage. Any person who violates this Order will be in direct contempt of a Court Order and may be prosecuted for criminal violations."

The proceedings were also streamed by assorted media organizations.

After he repeated the aforementioned Webex warning, Mulvahill asked the various attorneys to introduce themselves. They included 20th Judicial District District Attorney Michael Dougherty, leading the prosecution, and Kathryn Ann Herold, Daniel King and Samuel Robert Jae for the defense. King was the public defender who represented Aurora theater shooter James Holmes.

Mulvahill told Alissa that he would be held without bail and advised him of his rights, then asked if he understood — and reminded him that he needed to speak rather than simply gesture. Alissa, wearing a paper mask and sitting in a wheelchair (he was shot in the leg prior to being apprehended at the store), did so quietly, prompting Mulvahill to say, "For the record, he answered affirmatively."

The reading of the eleven charges filed against Alissa to date was set aside, after which Mulvahill asked for the defense's thoughts about a preliminary hearing.

In response, Herold requested a status hearing to precede a preliminary hearing. "We cannot do anything until we are able to fully assess Mr. Alissa's mental illness," she said. After a second mention of mental illness, she pointed out that "discovery is going to be voluminous" and posited that "it doesn't make sense" to stage the preliminary hearing before the prosecution gathers all of the facts it intends to present at trial.

Shortly thereafter, Herold requested a three-month delay before the status hearing, which Dougherty conceded was "further out" than he anticipated. He pointed out that additional charges will be filed against Alissa in the next few days.

Nonetheless, Mulvahill granted Herold's request for a status hearing two to three months from now, and promised that a date would be coming soon. "I want to make sure the defense has ample opportunity to move forward once we set that hearing," he said, then quickly brought the matter to a close.