Story Summary

Colorado movie theater shooting

James Homes, a 25-year-old former doctoral student in neuroscience at the University of Colorado, Denver, is accused of killing 12 people and wounding scores more in last summer’s shooting inside an Aurora movie theater.

It happened on July 20 during a screening of “Batman: The Dark Knight Rises.” The shootings killed 12 and wounded 58.

Most recently, a judge accepted Holmes’s plea of not guilty by reason of insanity.

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By Chelsea J. Carter, CNN coloradoshootingcouple

There is little about the horror that unfolded in a dark Aurora, Colorado, movie theater that Eugene Han and Kirstin Davis can forget.

There’s the sound of the gunfire, of the screams, of the chaos that followed as accused gunman James Holmes opened fire in a rampage that left 12 people dead and 58 wounded, among them Han and Davis.

One year later, the couple are taking back THAT day, replacing the fear they felt with the love they have for one another, when they marry on Saturday — a year to the day of the shooting rampage .

“My thought process was that everyone has a date that they want to get married on that means something special to them,” Han said Thursday on CNN’s Piers Morgan Live.

“For us, it was a night of terror and all that. So we wanted to change the date and, you know, make it our own.”

Surviving THAT night

It’s an ending for the couple that almost wasn’t.

THAT night, July 20, 2012, Han and Davis were on a date to see the midnight screening of the new Batman movie, “The Dark Knight Rises.”

The two had known each other for years, having gone to elementary school together.

But now, in this theater, they were a young couple, enjoying one another and the possibilities of their relationship.

Then, according to authorities, a heavily-armed Holmes walked through the emergency exit door and into the dark theater.

“When James Holmes walked in that night, I knew something was going to happen because no one really walks through an exit door — especially through an exit door,” Han said.

Maybe it was the warning his parents had given him as a child: Be aware of your surroundings.

Maybe it was instinct.

But in that moment, when the gunman opened fire, Han dropped from his seat to the floor.

When he looked over for Davis, he saw she was still in her seat.

He reached up and pulled her down on to ground.

“So I made sure that James Holmes couldn’t get to her. If anything, at least, put my body between her and the shooter,” he said.

The bullets “went through chairs like butter,” hitting Han in the hip and the knee. Davis suffered minor injuries, cuts and scrapes.

For months, as Han underwent medical care, Davis was by his side. Their bond, they say, strengthened.

Setting the date

The marriage proposal came months later, in a private moment as the couple vacationed in Texas.

Later, Han thought about the year and all that they had endured.

Today, Han can run and walk. But he also carries a constant reminder of THAT day — shrapnel in his hip.

As they drove back to Colorado, Han asked Davis if she wanted to get married on THAT day.

“I kind of scared her at first, and she had to think about it,” he said.

She, too, thought about all they had gone through. She thought about how he saved her. She thought about how she could have lost him.

Her answer: Yes.

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A Denver-area judge on Tuesday accepted a plea of not guilty by reason of insanity by Colorado movie theater shooting suspect James Holmes, according to CNN affiliates KMGH and KUSA.

Judge Carlos Samour Jr.’s ruling comes about a month after Holmes’ attorneys asked to change his plea from a standard not guilty — a move that followed the prosecution’s decision to seek the death penalty.

jamesholmesHolmes faces murder and other charges in the July 20 shooting spree in Aurora that killed 12 people and wounded dozens more at the premiere of the Batman movie “The Dark Knight Rises.”

Holmes’ previous not-guilty plea had been entered by a judge on his behalf in March, over his objection, Holmes’ defense team has said.

The defendant had offered to plead guilty and spend the rest of his life behind bars if authorities would spare his life, but prosecutors in Arapahoe County announced in April they would seek the death penalty.

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Attorneys for Colorado movie theater shooting suspect James Holmes on Tuesday filed their intent to enter a plea of not guilty by reason of insanity on behalf of their client.

Holmes faces charges in the July 20, 2012, shooting spree that took the lives of 12 people and wounded dozens more at the premiere in Aurora of the Batman movie “The Dark Knight Rises.”

Federal agents have said the 25-year-old former University of Colorado doctoral student planned the attack for months.

His trial is scheduled to begin next February. If convicted, Holmes faces the death penalty.
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Colorado shooting suspect James Holmes has offered to plead guilty and spend the rest of his life behind bars in exchange for avoiding the death penalty, according to court documents filed Wednesday.

Prosecutors have not accepted the offer because they may choose to pursue the death penalty.

“Prior to arraignment, Mr. Holmes made an offer to the prosecution to resolve this case by pleading guilty and spending the rest of his life in prison, without any opportunity for parole,” the documents read.

“If the prosecution elects not to pursue the death penalty, then it is Mr. Holmes’ position that this case could be resolved on April 1.”

Prosecutors have said they will make a decision on whether or not to seek the death penalty against the 25-year-old Holmes at a hearing April 1.

This month, a judge entered a standard plea of not guilty for Holmes, who is accused of a shooting rampage at a Colorado movie theater that left 12 people dead and 58 injured on July 20, 2012.

In the documents filed Wednesday, his attorneys said they are still exploring a mental health defense, “and counsel will vigorously present and argue any and all appropriate defenses at a trial or sentencing proceeding, as necessary.”

“Nevertheless, Mr. Holmes is currently willing to resolve the case to bring the proceedings to a speedy and definite conclusion for all involved.”
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By Jim Spellman and Lateef Mungin, CNN
 
Centennial, Colorado (CNN) — A judge on Tuesday entered a standard plea of not guilty for James Holmes, the man suspected in a mass shooting at a Colorado movie theater, after he and his attorneys said they were not ready to enter a plea.

In court documents, Holmes’ attorneys had suggested that they might enter a plea of not guilty by reason of insanity for the shooting rampage at the theater that left 12 people dead and 58 injured on July 20, 2012.

Holmes’ sanity was expected to be a major issue at Tuesday’s arraignment; his attorneys still may enter an insanity plea but it would be subject to the judge’s approval.

Prosecutors say they will make a decision on whether it not to seek the death penalty against the 25-year-old Holmes at a hearing April 1.

But an insanity plea could make such a move harder, said David Beller, an attorney who is not connected to the case.

“There are a few reasons they wouldn’t go for the death penalty; the most important one being his mental state,” Beller said. “The Supreme Court, and really society, has been very clear: We don’t execute people who are mentally ill.”

The reaction

Family members of some of those who died in the shooting say they would be unhappy with an insanity defense.

Jessica Watts, whose cousin was killed, said she does not believe Holmes is insane.

“Absolutely not. This was months and months of planning and thousands of dollars spent on his part in order to pull this horrific night off,” she said.

Federal agents have said Holmes began buying guns in May 2012, two months before the attack. He allegedly built an arsenal of two Glock handguns, an AR-15 rifle, a shotgun and 6,295 rounds of ammunition.

In addition, authorities contend, the former University of Colorado doctoral student dyed his hair fiery orange and apparently visited the AMC movie theater, taking photographs of hallways and doors, two weeks before the shooting.

The defense

According to the Colorado Bar Association, an insanity defense refers to “a person who is so diseased or defective in mind at the time of the commission of the act as to be incapable of distinguishing right from wrong with respect to that act is not accountable.”

If Holmes’ enters such a plea, he would waive all medical confidentiality and will have to turn over the name of any doctor or psychologist who may have treated him, according to Colorado law.

“If he enters the not guilty by reason of insanity plea, he’s going to be examined by state doctors and any statement he makes to those state doctors are given to the prosecution for potential use later,” Beller said.

On Monday, a judge ruled that Holmes will also have to agree to be drugged by doctors to assess his condition if he enters an insanity plea.

Earlier this month, Holmes’ lawyers tried to hae Colorado’s insanity defense laws changed.  Holmes’ lawyers tried to have Colorado’s insanity defense laws changed.

The attorneys asked the judge to rule parts of the state’s insanity defense laws unconstitutional.

Among other issues, they cited the requirement that a defendant “cooperate” with examining psychiatrists as a violation of the defendant’s privilege against compelled self-incrimination.

The charges

Holmes is charged with a total of 166 counts of murder, attempted murder and other charges.

Authorities say he booby-trapped his apartment with explosives, then traveled to the movie theater armed with four weapons, tear gas and body armor planning to kill audience members during a screening of “Batman: The Dark Knight Rises.”

Witnesses who have spoken to CNN about the shooting have said the gunman roamed the theater, shooting randomly as people tried to scramble away or cowered between seats.

Among the 41 calls to 911, one stands out. In the 27-second call, at least 30 shots can be heard amid the chaos.

At his preliminary hearing in January, police who responded described hellish scenes inside the theater and described finding Holmes, dressed in body armor, standing outside, seeming “detached from it all,” according to Officer Jason Oviatt.

At the conclusion of the brief hearing, the father of one of the victim’s shouted out, “Rot in hell, Holmes.”

Holmes’ trial date has been set for August 5.

A Colorado judge ruled Thursday that probable cause exists in the case of James Holmes, accused of killing 12 people and wounding scores more in last summer’s shooting inside an Aurora movie theater, and ordered that he stand trial.

Arapahoe County District Judge William Blair Sylvester, who ordered that Holmes be held without bail, converted a status hearing scheduled for Friday to an arraignment.

In his 61-page ruling, Sylvester said the prosecution had established probable cause in all 166 counts, including first-degree murder.

A defense request for a continuance of the arraignment will be taken up Friday, a court administrator said.

The 25-year-old former doctoral student in neuroscience at the University of Colorado, Denver, faces 166 charges, including murder, attempted murder and weapons offenses, tied to the July 20 rampage during a screening of “Batman: The Dark Knight Rises.”

Sylvester’s decision came after a three-day hearing this week in which prosecutors presented evidence against Holmes.

“He didn’t care who he killed,” prosecutor Karen Pearson told the judge at the conclusion of her case against Holmes, saying he chose his venue carefully to cage his victims. “He intended to kill them all.”

The shootings killed 12 and wounded 58.

Defense attorneys, who had been expected to call witnesses and argue a diminished capacity defense, changed their minds during the hearing, attorney Dan King said.

“We have had a change of position,” he said. “This is neither the proper venue nor the time to put on a show or present some truncated defense.”

After the hearing, some of the victims’ relatives asserted that Holmes was too calculating to be afflicted with diminished capacity.

“He’s not crazy one bit,” Tom Teves told reporters Wednesday. His son Alex, 24, was among those killed.

“He’s very, very cold. He’s very, very calculated,” Teves said of Holmes. “He has a brain set that no one here can understand, and we want to call him crazy because we want to make that feel better in our society.

“But we have to accept the fact there is evil people in our society that enjoy killing any type of living thing. That doesn’t make him crazy,” Teves said.

Added Jessica Watts, cousin of Jonathan Blunk, also killed in the theater: “It was complete planning. It was competency. It was everything on his part to make sure that this act was carried out from start to finish.”

According to hearing testimony, here is what is known about his alleged preparations:

Getting ready

Holmes began buying guns in May, supervisory agent Steve Beggs of the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives testified on Tuesday. Beggs said Holmes built an arsenal of two Glock handguns, an AR-15 rifle, a shotgun and 6,295 rounds of ammunition.

Among other purchases, Beggs said Holmes bought two 6-ounce tear gas grenades over the Internet on May 10 and he went to a gun store on May 22 to buy one of his Glocks.

A little more than a month later, on July 1, a video camera captured Holmes as he bought a scope, a mount and some inert ammunition at a Colorado gun store, Beggs said.

In the video, Beggs said, Holmes’ hair is dyed bright orange.

A police detective testified that Holmes apparently visited the cinema and took photographs of hallways and doors several times before the shootings.

The photographs were recovered from Holmes’ cell phone and go along with months of sales records and descriptions of meticulously prepared booby traps at his home. It all helps illustrate what would appear to be a well-planned attack.

On July 7, Holmes used an online ticketing service to buy a ticket for the midnight showing of the movie, according to Detective Craig Appel, the lead investigator in the case.

The apartment

Witnesses detailed preparations that prosecutors believe Holmes made before setting out for the theater to turn his sparsely decorated Aurora apartment into a deathtrap.

At least some of the preparations were well under way by July 16, based on a photograph from Holmes’ phone shown by prosecutors. In it, jars, wires, firework shells and other bomb-making materials are laid out in his kitchen.

By the time Holmes left, the carpet in his apartment had been soaked in oil and gas, FBI bomb technician Garrett Gumbinner testified. A container of glycerin hung above a frying pan with a potassium mixture, attached to a trip wire that would tip the glycerin into the pan, Gumbinner testified.

Had it been triggered, Gumbinner said, it would have set off an explosion and fire, igniting jars of homemade napalm spiked with bullets and thermite — a metallic substance that burns so hot it is nearly impossible to extinguish.

In a twist that seems ripped from the pages of a comic book, Holmes also rigged his computer and a boom box placed outside to begin playing loud music after he set out for the theater — apparently in hopes that the noise would prompt someone to investigate and trigger the explosives, witnesses said.

Next to the boom box outside his apartment, Gumbinner testified, Holmes said he placed a toy car and a device that looked like it would control the car but would instead have set off the explosives.

Authorities said they recovered the boom box, which bore Holmes’ fingerprints. The remote-control car device was never found, Appel testified.

A series of self-portraits displayed in court, apparently made before Holmes allegedly left for the theater, according to data retrieved from his phone, show him in eye-blackening contacts, his tongue stuck out in one, flashing a toothy grin and a handgun in another.

The shooting

Video from the theater shows a man they say is Holmes — wearing dark pants, a light-colored shirt and a dark stocking cap covering his orange hair — entering the multiplex before the movie begins.

The recordings show him going into Theater No. 9, a different theater from the one listed on his ticket.

Sources have said they believe he propped open the theater’s back door and went to his car to put on body armor and arm himself. Authorities believe Holmes then re-entered the theater, tossing gas canisters before opening fire about 18 minutes into the movie, according to sources.

Witnesses who have spoken to CNN about the shooting have said the gunman roamed the theater, shooting randomly as people tried to scramble away or cowered between seats.

Among the 41 calls to 911, one stands out. In the 27-second call, at least 30 shots can be heard amid the chaos.

At some point, according to Pearson, one of Holmes’ weapons jammed.

“Had the AR-15 not jammed, he would have killed more people,” she said.

Investigators found 76 shell casings in the auditorium. Most of the spent rounds — 65 — were .223 caliber rifle rounds, six were shotgun shells and five were .40 caliber rounds from the Glocks, Appel said. Police also found one of the tear-gas canisters inside the theater, Appel said.

Also located was a large drum magazine for the rifle that appeared to have jammed, Sgt. Gerald Jonsgaard testified Monday.

Outside, the first officer to encounter Holmes — who was dressed in body armor, a helmet and a gas mask as he stood near his car — described him as unnaturally relaxed. In fact, from Holmes’ appearance, Officer Jason Oviatt thought he was a fellow police officer.

A trail of blood led from the theater. The rifle that authorities say Holmes used in the attack lay on the ground near the building. Holmes was just standing there, Oviatt testified Monday.

“He seemed very detached from it all,” Oviatt said.

Holmes, sweating and smelly, his pupils dilated, didn’t struggle or even tense his muscles as he was dragged away to be searched, Oviatt said.

Police would cut off the body armor he wore and learn about the explosive booby-trap at his home.

The interrogation

Police described a strange scene in the interrogation room — Holmes sitting in his underwear, T-shirt and white socks after police had cut away his body armor — making puppets of the paper bags officers had placed over his hands to preserve gunpowder evidence, according to Appel.

Holmes played with his polystyrene drinking cup as if it were a piece in a game. Appel said. Then he removed a staple from the table and tried to stick it in an electrical outlet, the detective testified.

Asked by a defense attorney whether he had ordered a blood test for Holmes, Appel said he had not.

“There were no indications that he was under the influence of anything,” he said.

 

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Colorado movie theater shooting suspect James Holmes seemed “very, very relaxed” in the moments after the shooting rampage that left 12 people dead, the first police officer to encounter him testified Monday at the 25-year-old’s preliminary hearing.

Holmes, his pupils dilated, sweating and smelly, didn’t struggle or even tense his muscles as he was dragged away to be searched, Aurora police Officer Jason Obiatt said.

“He seemed very detached from it all,” Obiatt testified, describing Holmes as unnaturally calm amid the chaos and carnage.

Holmes appeared expressionless during the hearing and did not speak. His bushy hair and long beard contrasted with the bright red hair and close-cropped looks he sported during previous appearances.

Security was tight at the hearing. Spectators had to pass through a metal detector and then were searched again before entering the courtroom. At least nine armed officers stood guard inside, some of them scanning the audience packed with reporters and victims’ family members.

Holmes is charged with 166 counts, including murder, attempted murder and weapons offenses tied to the July 20 rampage at a midnight showing of “Batman: The Dark Knight Rises” in Aurora.

At the preliminary hearing — designed to show a judge that the state has enough evidence to proceed to trial — prosecutors are expected to call scores of witnesses and outline their evidence in the case. The hearing could go on for days.

Holmes’ attorneys, meanwhile, are expected to argue that he has “diminished capacity,” a term that, according to the Colorado Bar Association, relates to a person’s ability or inability “to make adequately considered decisions” regarding his or her legal representation because of “mental impairment or for some other reason.”

After the hearing, Arapahoe County District Judge William Sylvester will determine whether there is enough evidence for Holmes to stand trial.

A gag order imposed by Sylvester has limited the flow of information about the attack. However, a source said Holmes allegedly went out a rear exit door, propped it open and gathered his weapons. He then returned to the theater and tossed a canister inside before opening fire, the source said.

Screaming moviegoers scrambled to escape from the gunman, who shot at random as he walked up the theater’s steps, according to witnesses.

It was a scene “straight out of a horror film,” said Chris Ramos, who was inside the theater.

Obiatt testified Monday that within minutes of the first calls, he responded to the theater and found Holmes standing outside in a helmet and gas mask, his hands atop a white coupe that turned out to belong to him.

At first, Obiatt said, he thought Holmes was a police officer, but as he drew within 20 feet, he realized something was terribly wrong.

“He was just standing there. All the other officers were running around, trying to get into the theater,” Obiatt said.

A trail of blood led from the theater. The rifle that authorities believe Holmes used in the attack lay on the ground near the building.

Holmes calmly complied with all of Obiatt’s orders, the officer testified.

Another officer, Aaron Blue, testified later that Holmes matter-of-factly told him, without prompting, about the complex web of explosives that authorities would later find in his Aurora apartment.

He told Blue that the devices “wouldn’t go off unless we set them off.”

Neither of the officers whose testimony opened the hearing offered insight on the question that so many want answered: What motivated Holmes to stage the attack? It’s unclear if such answers might come later in the hearing.

Holmes was a doctoral student in the neuroscience program at the Anschutz Medical Campus of the University of Colorado, Denver, in Aurora, until he withdrew a month before being arrested outside the bullet-riddled movie theater. He had been a patient of a University of Colorado psychiatrist, according to a court document filed by his lawyers.

His only brush with the law in Colorado appears to have been a 2011 summons for speeding from Aurora police.

If Holmes is ruled incompetent to stand trial, the hearing could provide the best opportunity for victims and the public to understand what happened, and why.

To at least one victim, it doesn’t matter if Holmes stands trial.

“I obviously don’t want him to walk, but as long as he doesn’t see the light of day again, it doesn’t really much concern me beyond that,” said Stephen Barton, who suffered wounds on his face, neck and upper torso in the shooting that night. “To me, I see the trial as being an opportunity to learn more about what happened that night beyond just my own personal recollection.”
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