Face to face with Aurora's bereaved, all James Holmes could do was stare blankly ahead

James Holmes makes his first appearance, facing charges that could lead to the death penalty

Aurora, Colorado

Relatives of those killed in a massacre at a showing of the new Batman movie came face-to-face with the man accused of unleashing the mayhem yesterday – his shock of orange hair giving him the appearance of the Joker character he told police he was emulating.

Dressed in maroon prison garb, his hands and legs bound by a chain, James Eagan Holmes was brought into a Denver-area courthouse yesterday for his first appearance on what prosecutors said would be a slew of first-degree murder charges that could lead to the death penalty.

Looking dazed or drugged, he stared either blankly ahead or down at his lap, and nodded as if almost asleep for the duration of the 12-minute hearing. After District Judge William Sylvester advised Holmes of his rights and asked if he had any questions, Holmes's defence attorney, Dan King, replied his client would not be saying anything.

The 24-year-old doctoral research drop-out is accused of opening fire at the Century 16 cinema in the Denver suburb of Aurora during a midnight showing of The Dark Knight Rises on Friday, killing 12 and injuring 58 others – the largest number of casualties recorded in a mass shooting in the US.

Five members of families who lost loved ones in the massacre sat amidst officials from the public prosecutor's office and victims' advocates on the public benches of the courtroom located in the Arapahoe County Justice Centre in Centennial, part of the Denver metropolitan area. One young woman sobbed throughout the hearing, holding hands with a friend.

David Sanchez's pregnant daughter Katie escaped the cinema unhurt, but her husband, Caleb Medley, remains in a critical condition in hospital after being shot in the head.

"It makes you a little bit more angry," Mr Sanchez said after the hearing. He added that he would want Holmes to be punished by death if convicted.

In Colorado, it is the families of victims who decide whether to push for the death penalty in a case of first-degree murder. Carol Chambers, District Attorney, said that a decision on whether this becomes a capital case will not come soon, and will not be easy.

Arapahoe County District Attorney Carol Chambers said she would consult with the victims and families of the dead before making a decision on seeking the death penalty.

Ms Chambers, who has prosecuted two of the three inmates now on Colorado's death row, told reporters outside the courthouse that the decision on the death penalty had to be made within 60 days of his arraignment, "so it's months down the line."

It was not clear whether any of Holmes's family attended the hearing, but a lawyer retained by the family, Lisa Damiani, held a press conference to clarify a remark by the suspect's mother to an ABC TV reporter soon after the shooting.

Ms Damiani, speaking in San Diego, said that at the time of that early morning phone call, Arlene Holmes was not yet aware of the attack or accusations that her son was involved.

In telling the reporter, "You have the right person," Arlene Holmes was confirming her identity and not referring to her son. The attorney said Arlene Holmes's comment to ABC had been misconstrued by some media to suggest that she was not surprised to hear that her son had been involved in the shooting rampage.

Ms Damiani also said that the family was "doing as well as they can" under the circumstance.

For now, Holmes has not been charged. Prosecutors asked for, and were given, until Monday to present an indictment. Defence attorneys requested, and were given, permission for their experts to examine the crime scenes – the still-closed cinema and Holmes's North Aurora apartment.

The court also ordered that both sides be granted access to Holmes's academic records from the University of Colorado. Police hope that these might provide some answers as to what turned a quiet but apparently unthreatening straight-A student into someone who would spend months building a massive arsenal of weaponry, ammunition and riot gear, rig his apartment with a home-made bomb and set off to kill indiscriminately.

President Barack Obama, who spent several hours on Sunday talking with families of the dead and with survivors, told the story of 21-year-old Stephanie Davies, whose friend Allie Young was one of the first people to be shot. Stephanie kept one hand on her friend's neck wound and dialled 911 with her other, keeping the pressure on Allie's punctured vein for the whole rampage, before carrying her to an ambulance. "It's worth spending most of our time reflecting on young Americans like Allie and Stephanie, because they represent what's best in us, and assure us that out of this darkness a brighter day is going to come," Mr Obama said.

It was a sentiment echoed at a memorial for the victims held in Aurora on Sunday night. Colorado Governor John Hickenlooper read the names of the dead and after each one, the crowd chanted: "We will remember them."

News
peopleFrankie Boyle responds to referendum result in characteristically offensive style
Arts and Entertainment
'New Tricks' star Dennis Waterman is departing from the show after he completes filming on two more episodes
tvHe is only remaining member of original cast
Arts and Entertainment
tvHighs and lows of the cast's careers since 2004
News
news
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
News
ebooksAn unforgettable anthology of contemporary reportage
New Articles
i100
Life and Style
Couples have been having sex less in 2014, according to a new survey
life
Arts and Entertainment
musicBiographer Hunter Davies has collected nearly a hundred original manuscripts
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Cover Supervisor

£75 - £90 per day + negotiable: Randstad Education Group: Are you a cover supe...

Marketing Manager - Leicestershire - £35,000

£30000 - £35000 per annum: Ashdown Group: Marketing Manager (CIM, B2B, MS Offi...

Marketing Executive (B2B and B2C) - Rugby, Warwickshire

£22000 - £25000 per annum: Ashdown Group: A highly successful organisation wit...

SEN Coordinator + Teacher (SENCO)

£1 per day: Randstad Education Leeds: Job Purpose To work closely with the he...

Day In a Page

Scottish referendum: The Yes vote was the love that dared speak its name, but it was not to be

Despite the result, this is the end of the status quo

Boyd Tonkin on the fall-out from the Scottish referendum
Manolo Blahnik: The high priest of heels talks flats, Englishness, and why he loves Mary Beard

Manolo Blahnik: Flats, Englishness, and Mary Beard

The shoe designer who has been dubbed 'the patron saint of the stiletto'
The Beatles biographer reveals exclusive original manuscripts of some of the best pop songs ever written

Scrambled eggs and LSD

Behind The Beatles' lyrics - thanks to Hunter Davis's original manuscript copies
'Normcore' fashion: Blending in is the new standing out in latest catwalk non-trend

'Normcore': Blending in is the new standing out

Just when fashion was in grave danger of running out of trends, it only went and invented the non-trend. Rebecca Gonsalves investigates
Dance’s new leading ladies fight back: How female vocalists are now writing their own hits

New leading ladies of dance fight back

How female vocalists are now writing their own hits
Mystery of the Ground Zero wedding photo

A shot in the dark

Mystery of the wedding photo from Ground Zero
His life, the universe and everything

His life, the universe and everything

New biography sheds light on comic genius of Douglas Adams
Save us from small screen superheroes

Save us from small screen superheroes

Shows like Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D are little more than marketing tools
Reach for the skies

Reach for the skies

From pools to football pitches, rooftop living is looking up
These are the 12 best hotel spas in the UK

12 best hotel spas in the UK

Some hotels go all out on facilities; others stand out for the sheer quality of treatments
These Iranian-controlled Shia militias used to specialise in killing American soldiers. Now they are fighting Isis, backed up by US airstrikes

Widespread fear of Isis is producing strange bedfellows

Iranian-controlled Shia militias that used to kill American soldiers are now fighting Isis, helped by US airstrikes
Topshop goes part Athena poster, part last spring Prada

Topshop goes part Athena poster, part last spring Prada

Shoppers don't come to Topshop for the unique
How to make a Lego masterpiece

How to make a Lego masterpiece

Toy breaks out of the nursery and heads for the gallery
Meet the ‘Endies’ – city dwellers who are too poor to have fun

Meet the ‘Endies’ – city dwellers who are too poor to have fun

Urbanites are cursed with an acronym pointing to Employed but No Disposable Income or Savings
Paisley’s decision to make peace with IRA enemies might remind the Arabs of Sadat

Ian Paisley’s decision to make peace with his IRA enemies

His Save Ulster from Sodomy campaign would surely have been supported by many a Sunni imam