Aurora theater shooting suspect James Holmes appeared despondent and drowsy in court on Monday, his first public appearance after his arrest in a shooting at an Aurora movie theater that killed 12 and injured dozens more.
Holmes' hair had been dyed red and orange. Previous reports indicated after he was arrested, Holmes told police that "he was the Joker." The Joker character has sported different hair colors of the years in the Batman movie series.
Monday's hearing at the Arapahoe County Courthouse was to inform Holmes of his constitutional rights.
Holmes, 24, is being held without bond in isolation in the Arapahoe County Detention Center on suspicion of multiple counts of first-degree murder.
During the hearing, Holmes sat quietly and stoically. At times, he appeared wide-eyed, then seconds later, he closed his eyes and lowered his head.
Holmes did not speak and did not enter a plea. A plea is expected to come much later.
Before he can enter a plea, the court must determine if he's competent to stand trial.
"Can he assist in his own defense? That's not totally clear. He didn't look like he was assisting in his defense (Monday) morning when he appeared in court," said Denver defense attorney Dan Recht.
"If he can't assist in his own defense, that's the definition of incompetence and they won't be able to proceed. He won't be not guilty, he'll just be held at the state hospital until the time comes when he is competent," said Recht, who has death penalty case experience.
Holmes appeared in a burgundy jail shirt and was handcuffed. 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.
Many of the victims and family members of the victims were in court for the hearing.
"His hair was all orange because he's some freak and he's just this scary little, weak, pathetic human that no one should feel sorry for," said McKayla Hicks, who was shot in the chin during the massacre. "He shouldn't be able to breathe anymore, honestly."
David Sanchez came to the courthouse because he wanted to see justice in motion. Sanchez's daughter and son-in-law were at the movie that night. His son-in-law, Caleb, was shot in the head.
"My daughter, Katie, didn't get hit, but she was hospitalized after the shooting because she's pregnant and she's delivering her baby today. Caleb was hit in the head," Sanchez said.
Sanchez said he believes the death penalty would be appropriate in this case, and Hicks agrees.
"I don't think you can be insane and get away with that," she said of the possibility of an insanity plea.
The judge scheduled a second hearing for next Monday, July 30. The judge said Holmes will be formally charged at that hearing.
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.
Chambers also said this is not a slam-dunk case.
"There is no such thing as a slam-dunk case," Chambers said. "We will work very hard on this case."
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.
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