With his orange-dyed hair slicked back, the Colorado shooting suspect, James Holmes, sat impassively during a one-hour hearing in a packed courtroom yesterday as prosecutors charged him with 24 counts of murder.
Holmes, whose eventual trial is likely to be dominated by defence arguments about his sanity, will also face an additional 116 counts of attempted murder. The 24-year-old is accused of walking into a showing of the latest Batman film shortly after midnight on 20 July in Aurora, Denver, then releasing smoke bombs and opening fire with a selection of weapons. Twelve people died in the attack and 58 were wounded.
The 24 murder counts represent two counts for each of the victims killed – one standard murder in the first degree charge and a second charge of murder with extreme indifference. Investigators allege that Mr Holmes had been planning the attacks for months.
The defendant did not enter a plea. His face remained expressionless, even as the judge warned him that the murder counts meant he could be sentenced to death if found guilty. He was also charged with possession of explosives, apparently stemming from allegations that he booby-trapped his flat in anticipation of it being searched by the authorities. Court filings have revealed that Holmes was being treated by Dr Lynne Fenton, a psychiatrist who is also director of mental health at the University of Colorado campus where Holmes was a neuroscience PhD student.
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