Bomb techs, agents testify about booby traps, trip wires and other evidence inside Holmes' apartment
Last Updated: 49 days ago
CENTENNIAL, Colo. - Although the judge said attorneys did not need to get into evidentiary details, prosecutors asked questions that revealed new information about the evidence found in James Holmes' apartment.
A bomb squad technician says he believed detonation of the booby-traps found in James Holmes' apartment after the movie theater shooting would have been "devastating." At question in court, however, is if the search of the apartment was done improperly.
The trial is scheduled to begin in February and the defense has filed motions to prevent the technicians from testifying about what they found.
Holmes has pleaded not guilty by reason of insanity to 166 charges. Most of the charges are versions of either murder or attempted murder stemming from the July 20, 2012 shooting, but one of the charges covers the possession of explosives.
Detective Paul Capolungo, of the Denver Police Department's Bomb Squad, said he saw 15 or 20 mortar shells, fuses and other devices inside Holmes' 1690 Paris St. apartment. Testimony from other witnesses in previous hearings has indicated the devices were filled with gasoline, gunpowder, homemade napalm and homemade thermite.
Prosecuting attorney Rich Orman asked Capolungo, "Have you ever seen anything like that before?"
"No, from what I saw, that was highly dangerous. If these were to go off in that small an area, that would have been devastating," Capolungo responded.
Capolungo also said he had believed the area around the apartment building should have been evacuated for one and one-half or two blocks. At the time, however, reporters and spectators were allowed to stand just one-half block away.
"Without knowing what was in there, we didn't know evacuation distance and exclusionary zones," Roger Kelley, commander of the Adams County Bomb Squad. He was addressing the "exigent" or emergency situation investigators felt, to be able to search without a warrant.
Kelley explained the door to Holmes' apartment was opened with a disintegrating projectile, a ceramic round fired from a shotgun that breaks up upon impact.
A robot was sent in, Kelley said, but was stopped when the team operating it remotely feared it had touched a trip wire from one of the traps. A bomb technician in a protective suit had to be sent in to make sure the robot was not going to set anything off.
Video from the scene in July 2012 showed investigators breaking windows to see what was inside the unit and to vent a strong smell of gasoline, according to testimony Wednesday.
After the first break of the day, Aurora Police Department Detective Thomas Wilson took the stand and answered questions about evidence found inside the apartment. One was a photocopy of a page taken from a notebook found inside a backpack in Holmes' living room.
He told the court the paper showed a drawing of a "maze game" with a "serial killer" and a downtown Denver address of "LoDos." It was unclear if Wilson was referring to the bar with that name or the general area of downtown.
Also inside the backpack was a form for the withdrawal from the University of Colorado, but it did not have Holmes' name or signature on it.
Wilson answered questions about the prescription medications found in the apartment. The prescriptions were in Holmes' name and included an anti-depressant and another that was either for anxiety or sleep.
The final segment of the day in court involved the questioning of Leslie Kopper, a special agent on the FBI's evidence response team. She revealed that agents recovered black contact lenses with a "unique cutout," and a calendar which had the date of the shooting marked with a "unique symbol."
Before Kopper was questioned about specific evidence found inside the apartment, District Court Judge Carlos Samour reminded prosecutors that he was not being asked to consider any particular evidence. Instead, he is being asked to consider the legality or illegality of the information that was used to justify the search warrants. The defense argues the warrants were obtained based on an illegal search of the home by the use of the bomb robot, illegally obtained statements and that the warrant was unreasonably broad.
"The exigency that the police faced in entering the apartment is clear as glass," Orman told the judge.
The warrants were signed by the judge originally assigned to the case, William Sylvester. Sylvester is a chief judge and Samour's boss.
The testimonies on Wednesday are part of a series of hearings set to resolve pre-trial motions about evidence or testimony the defense wants banned from trial.
On Tuesday, FBI forensic chemists were asked how they arrived at conclusions about the chemicals found in the apartment. Another hearing focused on the warrants used to obtain Holmes' bank and phone records.
The judge may not issue his rulings until sometime in November.
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