Aurora movie theater shooting hearing: Officers testify about encounter with James Holmes

Officers didn't read Holmes his rights

AURORA, Colo. - A series of hearings are scheduled in the next week in the case of Aurora theater shooting suspect James Holmes.

Holmes is accused of killing 12 people and injuring 70 when he opened fire in a packed movie theater in Aurora on July 20, 2012. He is charged with more than 160 counts of murder and attempted murder, and has pleaded not guilty by reason of insanity.

Defense attorneys are trying to convince the judge to restrict specific evidence from being used at trial.

Tuesday's hearing was about statements Holmes made to Aurora Police officers before he was read his Miranda rights.

Multiple police officers who encountered Holmes outside the movie theater were called to testify. Four of the officers -- Justin Grizzle, Jason Sweeney, Jason Oviatt and Aaron Blue -- and one of the detectives -- Sgt. Matthew Fyles -- also testified at Holmes' preliminary hearing in January. Sgt. Stephen Redfearn and Detective Thomas Welton were also called to testify on Tuesday.


The newest details were provided during the testimony from Redfearn.

He said he was initially in the front seat of the vehicle that Holmes was handcuffed in the backseat. At some point he said he became a supervisor over the triage of the victims outside of the theater.

He said he made the decision to transport victims to the hospital in police cars, after waiting too long for ambulances to come to the back of the theater.


Prosecutors asked Grizzle, Sweeney, Oviatt and Blue a series of questions about what happened when they got the initial call about the shooting, what they saw when they arrived at the theater and what happened when they took Holmes into custody.

Prosecutors wanted to know if Holmes complied with the officers' instructions, if he understood what they were doing, if he did so without being coerced or threatened with weapons and if he ever complained of being hurt.

Defense attorneys also questioned each officer asking if they read Holmes his rights, heard someone read Holmes his rights, placed him under arrest or heard someone place him under arrest. Each officer responded, "No."

When asked if he notified Holmes that he was under arrest, Redfearn testified, "I figured he would understand that by being handcuffed and placed in the back of a police car."

He said he assumed Holmes knew that "he was just not free to leave."

Prosecutors were trying to show the judge there was a public safety concern, allowing officers leeway in asking questions before reading Holmes his rights.

Grizzle said he asked Holmes if anyone else was helping him or if he was alone. Grizzle said Holmes didn’t say anything.

"He didn't say anything. He just smiled at me," Grizzle said. "A self-satisfying, offensive smile."

While the defense objected to Grizzle's description, the judge allowed it, at least for his own consideration to determine if Holmes' statements should be allowed at trial. If he does allow it at trial, he said he would consider that objection again.

Prosecutors want to include that as evidence in the trial saying that it is a non-verbal statement, not a non-response.

Defense attorneys said, "This was silence. This particular response is so ambiguous, it holds no probative value."


Sweeney testified that once Holmes was handcuffed in the back of the police car, he asked Holmes if there was anyone else or if he was alone.

Sweeney said Holmes said, "It’s just me."

Sweeney said Holmes answered the question immediately and clearly.

Oviatt testified that he overheard another officer [Aaron Blue] questioning Holmes in the police car. Oviatt said he heard Blue ask something about "like set to go off?"  And Holmes said, "If you trip them."

Oviatt said he also heard Holmes say something about "the address on my license."

Oviatt said Blue reached in Holmes' pants and took out a wallet. Oviatt said he took the license out to get the address.

Oviatt told the court that Holmes' tone of voice was not tense and there was no emotion.

"[He was] just answering a question," Oviatt said.

Blue later testified that he asked Holmes if he had any weapons because he was responding to a shooting, with evident shooting victims, but did not see any weapons.

"He replied, 'He had four guns; he didn't have any bombs here, but he had improvised explosive devices at his home that wouldn't go off unless you set them off,'" said Blue.

Blue said he did not ask Holmes about bombs before Holmes offered the information.

He said Holmes was pulled from the police car and searched a second time because he was fidgeting. Blue said he wasn't sure if he was trying to get to a weapon they hadn't found.

Testimony from Blue, Oviatt and Redfearn contradicted each other. All three gave conflicting details about when Holmes was searched a second time, when his wallet was retrieved from his pants and who placed it on top of the computer in the front seat of the police car where Holmes was being held.

Defense attorneys want any evidence collected from the wallet kept from trial, saying the contents were reviewed without a search warrant.

Prosecutors argued that whether it was looked at outside the theater or once he was processed at the police station, the wallet and its contents were going to be reviewed and catalogued.

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