Colo. suspect charged with 24 counts of murder

CENTENNIAL, Colo. — Colorado prosecutors on Monday charged a former neuroscience graduate student with 24 counts of murder and 116 counts of attempted murder in the shooting rampage at the midnight showing of the new Batman movie.

James Holmes appeared just as dazed as he did in his first court appearance last week, but at one point exchanged a few words with one of his attorneys in the packed courtroom.

The breakdown of the charges was not immediately clear.

The attack at “The Dark Knight Rises” left 12 people dead and 58 others injured. After his arrest, police said they found that his apartment was booby trapped. Among the charges Monday was one count of possession of explosives.

Legal analysts expect the case to be dominated by arguments over the defendant’s sanity.

Unlike Holmes‘ first court appearance July 23, Monday’s hearing was not televised. At the request of the defense, District Chief Judge William Sylvester barred video and still cameras from the hearing, saying expanded coverage could interfere with Holmes‘ right to a fair trial.

Last week, Sylvester allowed a live video feed that permitted the world its first glimpse of the shooting suspect. With an unruly mop of orange hair, Holmes appeared bleary-eyed and distracted. He did not speak.

Attorneys also were arguing over a defense motion to find out who leaked information to the news media about a package the 24-year-old Holmes allegedly sent to his psychiatrist at the University of Colorado Denver.

Authorities seized the package July 23, three days after the shooting, after finding it in the mailroom of the medical campus where Holmes studied. Several media outlets reported that it contained a notebook with descriptions of an attack, but Arapahoe County District Attorney Carol Chambers said in court papers that the parcel hadn’t been opened by the time the “inaccurate” news reports appeared.

Security was tight for Monday’s hearing. Armed officers were stationed on the roof of both buildings at the court complex, and law enforcement vehicles blocked entrances to the buildings.

Investigators said Holmes began stockpiling gear for his assault four months ago and bought his weapons in May and June, well before the shooting spree just after midnight during a showing of the Batman film “The Dark Knight Rises.” He was arrested by police outside the theater.

Analysts said that means it’s likely there’s only one main point of legal dispute between prosecutors and the defense.

“I don’t think it’s too hard to predict the path of this proceeding,” said Craig Silverman, a former chief deputy district attorney in Denver. “This is not a whodunit. … The only possible defense is insanity.”

Under Colorado law, defendants are not legally liable for their acts if their minds are so “diseased” that they cannot distinguish between right and wrong. However, the law warns that “care should be taken not to confuse such mental disease or defect with moral obliquity, mental depravity, or passion growing out of anger, revenge, hatred, or other motives, and kindred evil conditions.”

Experts said there are two levels of insanity defenses.

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