Aurora shooting suspect could face 100 charges in camera-less courtroom
James E. Holmes at his first court appearance Monday, July 23, 2012.
AURORA, Colo. — In a few hours, the man accused of the largest mass shooting in American history will be formally charged.
James E. Holmes, the gunman that allegedly killed 12 people and injured 58 others, will dodge cameras and appear before an Arapahoe County judge.
He will get to that courthouse through an underground tunnel from the jail, likely wearing a bulletproof vest along with handcuffs and shackles. Once he takes his seat, Holmes could hear more than 100 charges leveled against him.
“Potentially, we are talking about over 100 charges,” former Denver prosecutor Craig Silverman said. “You have 12 counts of first degree murder, then you may have 58 counts of attempted first degree murder. First degree assault, as well.”
And that doesn’t even include Holmes’ alleged plot to blow-up his booby trapped apartment.
No cameras will be allowed inside the courtroom like last week. But the crowd is expected to be large, and will contain a multitude of reporters and victims’ family members.
Judge William Sylvester has also sealed many court documents, and the decision about whether or not to unseal those documents Monday rests in the judge’s hands alone.
“I think Judge Sylvester is erring on the side of being very cautious,” Dan Recht, a defense attorney, said. “He doesn’t want this to turn into a media circus.”
Sylvester will also decide whether or not the defense team will get immediate access to a notebook that Holmes allegedly sent to his psychiatrist.
It’s the same notebook that is said to contain premeditated, intimate details about the Aurora theater attack. It’s the same notebook that moved Sylvester to issue the case’s first gag order, which prohibited the University of Colorado from releasing more information about the notebook.
This was after a report had already surfaced about the notebook’s existence and contents.
“Clearly there were requests from media outlets upon the University of Colorado wanting to see those public records,” Recht said. “And normally they’d have a right to those public records.”
As far as fallout from the contents of the notebook, which Holmes reportedly appeared on the CU-Denver campus up to a week before the attack, psychiatrists say there is precedent for when the doctor-patient privilege can – and must – be broken.
“You can’t sort of sit on it if there is a threat there,” psychiatrist Ron Morley said. “Your confidentiality with the patient does not override your obligation as a human being.”
That part of the case will become relevant if Holmes pleads insanity, which is expected.
Last week, the Arapahoe County district attorney did not know if she would pursue the death penalty. She said that decision will come in a few months.