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Laurie Levenson, a professor at Loyola Law School in Los Angeles and a former federal prosecutor, said preliminary hearings sometimes set the stage for a plea agreement as each side gets to assess the strength of the other.

Holmes is charged with multiple counts of first-degree murder and attempted murder and hasn’t been asked to enter a plea yet. His lawyers have said he suffers from mental illness.

Next week’s hearing will give the public its first officially sanctioned look at much of the evidence against Holmes.

A judge imposed a gag order shortly after Holmes’ arrest barring attorneys and investigators from speaking publicly about the case, and many documents have been sealed.

The University of Colorado, where Holmes was enrolled in a Ph. D. neuroscience program, has also been tight-lipped about the case. Investigators said he began stockpiling firearms and ammunition while taking classes in the spring.

In June, he made threats to a professor and on June 10 filed withdrawal papers after failing a year-end exam, prosecutors said. The next day he saw his school psychiatrist who tried to report him to a campus security committee, according to Holmes’ lawyers.