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Judge delays arraignment in Colo. theater shooting
CENTENNIAL, Colo. — A judge on Friday delayed the arraignment of the man charged with the Colorado theater shooting until March despite objections from prosecutors and most of the victims and their families.
District Judge William Sylvester ruled Thursday night that prosecutors had presented sufficient evidence at a preliminary hearing to proceed toward trial on charges that James Holmes killed 12 people and injured 70 others at a suburban Denver movie theater on July 20.
Holmes, who is charged with multiple counts of first-degree murder and attempted murder, won’t have to enter a plea until March 12 after the judge granted a defense motion to delay that proceeding.
The father of Rebecca Wingo, who was killed in the shooting, shouted “Rot in hell Holmes” at the end of the hearing. The judge reconvened the proceeding to talk to Steve Hernandez, who promised to refrain from further outbursts.
Defense lawyers didn’t give a reason for seeking the delay in entering a plea.
One possible reason could be to seek a mental health evaluation by a doctor of their choosing. Lawyers for Holmes have said he is mentally ill, raising the possibility of an insanity defense.
If Holmes had entered an insanity plea on Friday, an evaluation would be done by state doctors.
Prosecutors objected to the delay and said they were ready to move ahead.
Sylvester said he understood their position but wanted to make sure he did not do anything that could lay the grounds for an appeal.
“We want to avoid at all costs doing anything improper,” the judge said.
If Holmes, 25, is convicted of first-degree murder, he could face the death penalty. Prosecutors have not said whether they would pursue that sentence.
The hearing capped an emotional week in which the public, including victims and their families, got the first look at evidence gathered against Holmes and heard police officers describe attempts to save the wounded.
During the preliminary hearing, witnesses testified that Holmes spent weeks amassing an arsenal and planning the attack at a midnight showing of “The Dark Knight Rises,” and that he took photos of himself hours before the shooting, including one that showed him grinning with a handgun.
They also detailed an elaborate setup at Holmes‘ apartment designed to explode at the same time the theater attack occurred several miles away.
Prosecution witnesses testified that Holmes began acquiring weapons in early May, and by July 6 he had two semi-automatic pistols, a shotgun, a semi-automatic rifle, 6,200 rounds of ammunition and high-capacity magazines that allow a shooter to fire more rounds without stopping to reload.
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