CENTENNIAL, Colo. - The suspect in the Colorado movie theater killings returns to court this week for a hearing that might be the closest thing to a trial the victims and their families will get to see.
James Holmes, a former neuroscience graduate student, is charged with killing 12 people and injuring 70 by opening fire in a darkened theater in the Denver suburb of Aurora last July.
At a weeklong preliminary hearing starting Monday, prosecutors will outline their case against Holmes, the first official public disclosure of their evidence. The judge will then determine whether to send the case to trial.
Legal analysts say that evidence appears to be so strong that Holmes may well accept a plea agreement before trial. In such cases, the preliminary hearing can set the stage for a deal by letting each side assess the other's strengths and weaknesses, said Laurie Levenson, a former federal prosecutor and now a professor at Loyola Law School in Los Angeles.
Preliminary hearings "are often the first step to resolving the case, a mini-trial so both sides can see the writing on the wall," Levenson said.