Public Defender Tamara Brady, right, shows James E. Holmes documents as he appears in Arapahoe County District Court on Monday in Centennial, Colo.
CENTENNIAL, Colo. — His hair dyed bright orange-red, James Holmes showed up in court for the first time but didn’t seem to be there at all.
The world’s first look at the man accused of killing 12 moviegoers and injuring 58 others in a shooting rampage at a packed midnight screening of the new Batman film was that of a sleepy-looking, seemingly inattentive suspect.
Holmes shuffled into court Monday in a maroon jailhouse jumpsuit with his hands cuffed. Unshaven and appearing dazed, Holmes sat virtually motionless, his eyes drooping as the judge advised him of the severity of the case. At one point, Holmes simply closed his eyes.
He never said a word.
Prosecutors said they didn’t know if he was being medicated. His demeanor, however, angered victims’ relatives. Tom Teves, whose son, Alex, was killed in the attack, watched Holmes intently throughout the roughly 12-minute hearing, sizing up the 24-year-old former doctoral student.
“I saw the coward in court today, and Alex could have wiped the floor with him without breaking a sweat,” Teves said. His son, a physical therapist, dove to protect his girlfriend during the shooting at a multiplex in nearby Aurora in the Denver suburbs.
The hearing was the first confirmation that Holmes’ hair was colored. On Friday, there were reports of his hair being red. Batman’s nemesis, “The Joker,” in the fictional Gotham has brightly colored hair.
Holmes, whom police say donned body armor and was armed with an assault rifle, a shotgun and handguns during the attack, was arrested shortly afterward. His home was booby-trapped with a trip wire, explosives and unknown liquids that took a day to disarm.
Police have said Holmes began buying guns at Denver-area stores nearly two months before Friday’s shooting and that he received at least 50 packages in four months at his home and at school.
Holmes, who is being held in isolation, is refusing to cooperate, authorities said. They said it could take months to identify a motive.
On Monday, security was tight as uniformed sheriff’s deputies were stationed outside, including on the roofs of both court buildings.
Holmes’ entrance into the courtroom was barely noticeable, but relatives of shooting victims leaned forward in their seats to catch their first glimpse of him. Two women held hands tightly, one shook her head. One woman’s eyes welled up with tears.
Holmes sat down in a jury box next to one of his attorneys. When the judge asked him if he understood his rights, his attorneys did all the talking.
Prosecutor Carol Chambers said her office is considering pursuing the death penalty but that a decision will be made in consultation with the victims’ families.
David Sanchez, who waited outside the courthouse during the hearing, said his pregnant daughter escaped without injury but her husband was shot in the head and was in critical condition.
“When it’s your own daughter and she escaped death by mere seconds, I want to say it makes you angry,” Sanchez said.
Asked what punishment is appropriate if Holmes is convicted, Sanchez said, “I think death is.”
Chambers’ office is responsible for the convictions of two of the three people on Colorado’s death row.
Chambers also is the only state district attorney to seek the death penalty in a case in the last five years, said Michael Radelet, a sociology professor at the University of Colorado at Boulder who tracks death penalty cases.
Yet Colorado uses the death penalty relatively sparingly. There has been only one execution since it was reinstated by the U.S. Supreme Court in 1976. The state legislature fell one vote short of abolishing the death penalty in 2009.
At a news conference in San Diego, where Holmes’ family lives, their lawyer, Lisa Damiani, refused to answer questions about him and his relationship to the family. She said later: “Everyone’s concerned” about the possibility of the death penalty.
When asked if they stood by Holmes, Damiani said, “Yes, they do. He’s their son.”
Holmes is expected to be formally charged next Monday. He is being held on suspicion of first-degree murder, and he could also face additional counts of aggravated assault and weapons violations. Holmes has been assigned a public defender.
Weeks before, Holmes quit a 35-student doctoral program in neuroscience for reasons that aren’t clear. He had earlier taken an intense oral exam that marks the end of the first year, but University of Colorado, Denver, officials would not say if he passed, citing privacy concerns.
At a news conference, university officials refused to answer questions about Holmes. “To the best of our knowledge at this point, we think we did everything that we should have done,” said Donald Elliman, the university chancellor.
The judge has issued an order barring lawyers in the case from publicly commenting on matters including evidence, whether a plea deal is in the works or results of any examination or test performed on someone.MORE IN Wire NewsSEOUL, South Korea — North Korea fired three short-range guided missiles into its eastern waters ... Full Story
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