"Dark Knight" massacre suspect, James Holmes, made his first public appearance in court on Monday. The District Attorney discusses the charges, possibility of the death penalty, and the lengthy trial to come.
Accused "Dark Knight" killer James Holmes is expected back in court Thursday as a judge considers whether his university records can be turned over to prosecutors.
Prosecutors want access to over 100 pages of non-medical records that the University of Colorado, where Holmes was until recently a neuroscience graduate student, turned over to Arapahoe County District Judge William Sylvester last week, The Associated Press reported.
Defense attorneys, who moved last week to cancel a prosecution subpoena for the records, are asking that nobody, not even the judge, examine the documents, according to the AP.
Holmes is accused of killing 12 people and wounding 58 others in a July 20 shooting spree at an Aurora, Colo., theater during a midnight screening of "The Dark Knight Rises."
Prosecutors say his university records are crucial to their efforts to gain access to the contents of a package Holmes mailed to his university psychiatrist, Dr. Lynne Fenton, who is scheduled to testify Aug. 30. That package reportedly contained a notebook detailing violent descriptions of an attack. The defense maintains the package's contents are privileged doctor-patient communications, the AP reported.
Karen Steinhauser, a law professor and former Denver Deputy District Attorney, told the AP that the university records could help prosecutors build their case against Holmes.
"They want those records in the hopes that it could help them build their case that these are not the actions of an insane man," Steinhauser said.
Another school, the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, recently released Holmes’ educational records from when he considered enrolling. They contained a letter of recommendation that described Holmes as having “a great amount of intellectual and emotional maturity,” The Denver Post reported.
Last week Judge Sylvester ruled to keep some key court documents sealed from the public, saying their release could damage the investigation, NBC News reported. According to The Denver Post, prosecutors and the defense both argued for the court documents to remain sealed to assure the integrity of the investigation and to protect Holmes’ right to a fair trial.
Holmes has appeared dazed in earlier court appearances, and lawyers’ first big legal hurdle is to determine whether he understands the charges against him and can assist in his own defense.
If he is found competent to stand trial, Holmes will likely enter a plea of not guilty by reason of insanity, setting in motion many more months of legal proceedings, Patrick Furman, a University of Colorado law professor, has said.
Holmes is charged with a deadly rampage at the Denver-area movie theater in which he opened fire on an audience at a screening of "The Dark Knight Rises," killing 12 and injuring 58. Authorities said that after they apprehended him in the theater's parking lot, he said he was Batman's nemesis, the Joker. Police later removed explosives from his apartment in a painstaking operation, they said.
Holmes now faces 24 counts of murder and 116 counts of attempted murder. The dual murder charges for each of the 12 people fatally shot break down as “murder with deliberation” and killing with “extreme indifference to the value of human life.” That allows the prosecution two paths in pursuing a possible death sentence, NBC News reported.
A preliminary hearing is currently scheduled for Nov. 13, when the court will hear testimony to determine whether there is enough evidence to proceed to trial, the Denver Post reported.