Suspected theater gunman in the Aurora shootings appeared in court for initial hearing

By Deb Stanley, New Media Producer/KMGH

James Holmes appeared in court for an initial hearing in connection with the mass shooting at an Aurora movie theater that killed 12 people and injured dozens more.

The initial advisement hearing was held at the Arapahoe County Courthouse.

During the hearing, Holmes sat quietly and stoically. At times, he closed his eyes and appeared dazed.

Holmes did not speak and did not enter a plea. A plea is expected to come much later.

Holmes appeared in a burgandy jail shirt. He sat with a woman who appeared to be an attorney. However, Holmes is expected to be represented by James O'Connor, Arapahoe County's top public defender. Authorities said the case is likely to stay in state court.

The judge scheduled a second hearing for next Monday, July 30.

Holmes, 24, is being held in the Arapahoe County Detention Center on suspicion of multiple counts of first-degree murder.

His appearance starts the clock ticking on a 72-hour deadline for the district attorney to file formal charges. Holmes will then have an arraignment hearing to be advised of the formal charges against him.

Eighteenth Judicial District Attorney Carol Chambers said Monday that her office is considering pursuing the death penalty against Holmes. She said a decision will be made in consultation with victims' families.

Under Colorado state law, a prosecutor must inform the court and the defendant that the state will seek the death penalty within 60 days of arraignment. Defendants are eligible for the death penalty if found guilty of first-degree murder with at least one aggravating factor, which can include ambushing a victim or using an explosive device.

"It is all but certain that prosecutors will file first-degree murder charges against Holmes in the Arapahoe County courthouse and that they'll seek the death penalty," criminal law expert Sam Kamin, a law professor at the University of Denver, told the Los Angeles Times.

All three people on Colorado's death row were put there by the Arapahoe County District Attorney's Office. Two are Robert Ray and Sir Mario Owens, convicted of first-degree murder in the 2005 ambush slaying of a shooting witness and his girlfriend. The third person is Nathan Dunlap, who was convicted of killing multiple people at a Chuck E. Cheese restaurant in Aurora.

Colorado has executed only one prisoner since the death penalty was reinstated in 1984: Gary Davis in 1997.

Police said Holmes lobbed tear gas into the Century 16 Theater showing the midnight opening of "The Dark Night Rises," then opened fire on unsuspecting patrons early Friday.

After he was apprehended, Holmes told officers that he had loaded explosives into his apartment, police said. Bomb technicians meticulously cleared the apartment on Saturday.