Aurora Theater Shooting

James Holmes: 24 counts of first-degree murder, 116 counts of attempted murder

Update below: At a hearing this morning, the 18th Judicial District DA's office formally informed suspected Aurora theater shooter James Holmes of the charges against him -- and there are 142 of them.

Westword was in this courtroom this morning and will provide detailed coverage of the hearing shortly. But here are the basics.

Holmes has been charged with:

24 counts of first-degree murder 116 counts of attempt to commit first-degree murder 1 count of possession of explosive devices 1 sentence enhancer for a crime of violence

During his first court appearance a week ago, Holmes appeared dazed and sleepy. But this morning, he seemed to be paying attention to the proceedings. He sat with his lawyers at the defense table in a maroon jumpsuit. His hair was still dyed, though it looked more faded -- pink on top and orange around the bottom. It was less bushy, as if it'd been combed.

Update, 12:58 p.m. July 30: The courtroom was packed this morning, with the media taking up a little less than half of the seats and the public -- including some who were in the theater that night, and their families -- filling the remainder. The mood before Holmes entered, at least among the media, was of tense anticipation. Once seated at the defense table with his lawyers, Holmes looked different than he did at his first hearing. He wasn't nodding and he appeared to be paying attention to the hearing, if not participating.

The judge quickly read the charges against Holmes, who is being held without bond. The prosecution, which today included Arapahoe District Attorney Carol Chambers, asked that Holmes be advised of the possible penalties, too. The 24 counts of first degree murder carry a minimum sentence of life in prison, the judge said, and a maximum sentence of death. The 116 counts of attempted murder could carry up to 24 years in prison each, and the possession of an explosive device count could carry up to six years. The sentence enhancer charge could increase the minimum and maximum number of years in prison Holmes would serve if he were convicted.

Much of the hearing was procedural. The prosecution and defense briefly discussed several motions and set future dates to argue them further. The issues to be debated include whether Holmes's communications with his therapist are privileged. Holmes was seeing Dr. Lynne Fenton, the director of student mental health services at the University of Colorado, where he was a neuroscience student before dropping out. It was revealed last week that Holmes sent Fenton a package that may have contained a notebook; anonymous law enforcement sources have reportedly said the notebook included a plan and drawings of the attack. The defense claims the contents of the package fall under doctor-patient privilege. The prosecution says they do not. Prosecutors said they have not yet received discovery related to the package but will share it with the defense when they do. The court set a date, August 16, to argue the issue further.

Also at issue are two videos related to the package: one a ten-hour surveillance video from the University of Colorado mailroom and another a video of the Adams County bomb squad examining the package. The prosecution will turn the videos over to the defense, which will watch them and decide whether or not they feel they contain privileged information. Prosecutors have not watched the videos but said they've been told that the contents of the package are not visible.

But before the two sides return for arguments related to doctor-patient privilege, they'll be back in court on August 9 to determine whether the case file should be unsealed and the motions and documents inside it made public. The media has filed a petition asking the court to do just that.

The only time Holmes spoke at today's hearing was to say "yes" when the judge asked him if he'd like to waive his right to a preliminary hearing within 35 days. The preliminary hearing, at which many more details about the case could emerge, has been set for mid-November.

After the brief hearing, the victims and their families exited the courthouse past a gauntlet of media asking to interview them. A few agreed, including MaryEllen Hansen, the aunt of Ashley Moser, who lost her six-year-old daughter, her unborn child and likely the use of her legs in the shooting.

"It was very important for me to come today and see him," she said. "I wanted the opportunity to watch his gestures and get an idea of the type of character he was." Holmes, she said, "looked very, very alert today."

As for how she felt upon seeing him, Hansen said: "I felt anger and resentment that anybody could take someone's life for just going to the movies." However, Hansen said she doesn't favor the death penalty; "I'm a Christian and I believe he should probably just be locked away and have to live with what he did every day."

Some of those in attendance wore shirts with the black and yellow Batman logo on them. One man, Donald Lader, wore a Dark Knight Rises t-shirt that depicted Batman in front of flames and the words, "A Fire Will Rise." He and his wife were in the theater. "I felt it was my responsibility to be here," he said, adding, "We're going to take this head on."

Here's the official charging document filed against Holmes:

James Holmes Charging Document

More from our Aurora Theater Shooting archive: "James Holmes defense filing confirms package, psychiatric care: Read it here."

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Melanie Asmar is a staff writer for Westword. She joined the paper in 2009 and has won awards for her stories about education, immigration and epic legal battles. Got a tip? She'd love to hear it.
Contact: Melanie Asmar