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Colo. suspect’s planning detailed in court

Photos he took part of evidence

- Associated Press - Wednesday, January 9, 2013

CENTENNIAL, Colo. — The photos were chilling and enigmatic, just like their subject. In the pictures, taken on his iPhone hours before the Aurora movie theater massacre, accused gunman James Holmes mugs for the camera, sticks out his tongue and smiles as he holds a Glock under his face and displays his arsenal arrayed on his bed.

Prosecutors who displayed the pictures at a hearing that ended Wednesday argue that the photos display "identity, deliberation and extreme indifference."

Mr. Holmes' attorneys — who have been setting up an insanity defense and said they might present testimony about the defendant's mental health — decided not to call any witnesses.

A judge is scheduled to rule by Friday whether prosecutors presented enough evidence to justify Mr. Holmes standing trial on more than 160 felony counts stemming from the July 20 attack, which killed 12 people and injured 70. Mr. Holmes, 25, may enter a formal plea that day.

Prosecutors presented the most detailed description of the attack and Mr. Holmes' purported months of preparation. But they never addressed the question of why Mr. Holmes opened fire six weeks after leaving a neuroscience graduate program.

Legal experts say evidence against Mr. Holmes is so strong that the case may end in a plea deal, which would make the hearing the only detailed presentation of the evidence that victims, their families and the public will hear.

Mr. Holmes sat impassively through much of the proceedings, watching intently as a surveillance video showed him entering the theater lobby. Family members, who had a better view of his face in the packed courtroom than journalists did, said he smiled multiple times, especially when the photos were shown.

"He's not crazy, he's evil," said Tom Teves, whose 24-year-old son Alex was killed in the attack. "He's an animal."

Prosecutor Karen Pearson argued that Mr. Holmes meticulously planned the attack, starting with the online purchase of two tear-gas canisters on May 10, followed by the online purchase of 6,295 rounds of ammunition and body armor, as well as going to local sporting goods stores to purchase an assault rifle, shotgun and two Glock pistols.

He bought his ticket for opening night of "The Dark Knight Returns" nearly two weeks before the attack and visited the theater early, photographing the layout.

He rigged an elaborate booby-trap system in his apartment with three triggers, hoping the detonation would distract police from the carnage he planned a few miles away, investigators testified. The trap was never sprung.

About six hours before the attack, Mr. Holmes took a series of photos on his phone. In one he wears black contact lenses and a black stocking cap, with two tufts of his dyed-red hair sticking out like a pair of horns. In another he holds a pistol beneath his face, twisted into a grin. In a third, much of his arsenal — the assault rifle and shotgun, magazines for ammunition, tactical gear and bags to carry rounds — is displayed on a red sheet on his bed.

When Mr. Holmes burst into the theater and opened fire just after midnight July 20, according to authorities, there were as many as 1,500 people crowded into the seats and in the auditorium next door, prosecutors said.

"He didn't care who he killed or how many he killed, because he wanted to kill all of them," Ms. Pearson said Wednesday.

The hearing is a legal formality to establish the prosecution's case. Defense attorneys rarely mount a full-blown case during such hearings, preferring to save their witnesses for the trial.

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