News24

Bizarre appearance for 'Batman' gunman

2012-07-23 22:42

Colorado - A US legal commentator says that in his view lawyers for presumed Colorado gunman James Holmes have little choice but to use an insanity defence.

His hair dyed orange, eyes staring out blankly or drooping shut, Holmes seemed unhinged as he made a bizarre first appearance in court.

Holmes is accused of shooting dead 12 people and wounding 58 others at a cinema on Friday in Aurora, outside Denver, as young moviegoers packed the first midnight screening of the latest Batman film, The Dark Knight Rises.

Wearing a maroon prison jumpsuit, the 24-year-old graduate student didn't speak as lawyers read out a list of accusations during the short procedural hearing at Arapahoe County District Court in the town of Centennial.

Holmes, a former PhD candidate in neuroscience, appeared unable to follow proceedings properly as his head bobbed up and down and he alternated between staring out wide-eyed and closing his eyes shut as if in a daze.

It was unclear if he was on some kind of medication and there was no indication of when the young man accused of one of America's worst-ever mass shootings might undergo psychiatric evaluation.

Formal charges will be filed at Holmes' arraignment next Monday. 

Denver attorney and legal commentator Scott Robinson said that lawyers for Holmes "have little choice except to enter a plea of not guilty by reason of insanity".

Under Colorado law, Holmes could face multiple murder charges as well as attempted murder charges for the wounded. He was ordered to remain in Arapahoe County jail, where he is being held in isolation, with no bail allowed.

Prosecutors expect weeks of consultations with families of the victims before deciding whether or not to seek the death penalty.

"We will want to get their input before we make any decision on that," said Arapahoe county district attorney Carol Chambers. "If the death penalty is sought, that is a very long process that impacts their lives for years."

Only one person has been executed in Colorado since 1976.

Holmes gave himself up outside the cinema, still clad in the full body armour that witnesses described the gunman wearing as the bullets flew inside, but Chambers said his successful prosecution wasn't a done deal.

"It is a case where we are still looking at the enormous amount of evidence, and we would never presume it is slam dunk," she told reporters outside court.

About half of the 100 plus seats in the courtroom were reserved for victims and their family members, with a heavy contingent of deputy sheriffs providing visible security.

"Justice is very important to me," said David Sanchez, whose pregnant daughter Katy and son-in-law Caleb were among the wounded.

"It was important to support my daughter and her husband and their newborn baby who is coming."

The gunman emerged from a fire exit on Friday shortly after the film began and threw two canisters of noxious gas into the crowd.

After firing one round directly into the air with a pump-action shotgun, he began shooting people at random with a military-style assault rifle that could dispatch 50 to 60 rounds a minute, witnesses said.

New York City Police Commissioner Ray Kelly said Holmes had painted his hair reddish orange and claimed he was the Joker, Batman's sworn enemy in the comic book series that inspired the movie.

According to media reports and at least one witness, the gunman might have killed more people had his AR-15 assault rifle not jammed.

Calls for a re-examination of America's gun laws mounted in the aftermath of the tragedy as it emerged that Holmes bought his four weapons legally, as well as thousands of rounds of ammunition on the internet.

Over eight weeks he stocked up on 6 300 rounds of ammunition: 3 000 for his .233 semi-automatic AR-15 rifle, another 3 000 for his two Glock pistols, and 300 cartridges for his pump-action shotgun.

Police said Sunday they had found Holmes's computer inside his booby-trapped apartment - rigged to kill anyone who entered - which could provide crucial details about how he planned and executed the attack.

President Barack Obama paid emotional tribute to the victims and survivors of the Aurora cinema massacre as he visited the town on Sunday.

Aurora is located just 32km from the scene of the 1999 Columbine High School massacre, in which two students shot dead 13 people before committing suicide.

That shooting prompted consternation in the United States and the rest of the world, but ultimately had no effect on America's gun laws, which are backed by a constitutional amendment defending a citizen's right to bear arms.

Comments
  • mark.schulz.796 - 2012-07-24 00:20

    They can't use an insanity defense - he planned it for months, which clearly shows premeditation. Maybe he is a 'Manchurian candidate' - not!

      mark.schulz.796 - 2012-07-24 00:24

      Sadly, some gun control nuts are putting forward that he was a plant by the socialists to bring about gun control. I guess there is a lot of craziness surrounding this case.

  • Bob.Cee123 - 2012-07-24 00:35

    I've no issue with guys like this being taken out by police while in the middle of their deed, to prevent further casualties, but now he's been nabbed it certainly appears as if he is certifiably insane and the death penalty may not be appropriate. Either he was doing some experimental 'neuroscience' on himself or he is simply loopy. Could be way more reasons ranging from schizophrenia to brain tumor as well. As for the insanity plea not being valid due to all the planning which went into it, fair point but he may have been insane all the while. Doubtful, I agree, but possible enough to warrant further exploration before simply dismissing it. Either way, it's tragic what this guy has done and he is incompatible with society. Let them do with him what they see fit after a fair trial.

      thys.reeder - 2012-07-24 09:37

      I have an issue with the fact that this happened in a gun-free zone. There should of been others shooting back at him.

      anthonie.snijders - 2012-07-24 15:23

      The legal definition of insanity requires a person to not be able to control their actions at the time of the commission of the crime so, legally speaking, any forethought or planning is evidence against insanity. They guy is clearly nuts but he's competent in the eyes of the law.

  • kosta.rika.35574 - 2012-07-24 04:53

    How do you stop wankers - insane or not - from killing and maiming dozens of innocent people? Simple. Torture them to death, whether they're insane or not - either way, good riddance.

  • Enid Molebatsi - 2012-07-24 06:49

    mnx! this guy is normal upstairs! there is nothing wrong with him... he planned all this so he should face da law.........

      rob.gunning.1 - 2012-07-24 09:49

      Nothing wrong with him???.... Wow! So you think his actions are completely sane and that any normal clear thinking person would act in exactly the same way? Ohhh boy.

      Vanman1979 - 2012-07-24 12:57

      @Rob So what you are saying is that any murderer, thieve or just plain criminal is insane. Because no normal clear thinking human will commit a crime. Come on insanity is a good excuse for many crinmes that are being committed, but is it really true?

      rob.gunning.1 - 2012-07-24 14:34

      @DJVANMAN - No that is not what I am saying. In context of this incident, nothing was stolen, no particular person was targeted for any particular reason and there was no worldly gain that could be achieved by the acused (financial, political or otherwise). Until a motive can be provided, what other form of defence can the accused plea?

  • mfundoj1 - 2012-07-24 06:54

    The Joker would have done it like this:\r\nHis face pops up in the screen giving pple a 3 seconds count down. Green laughing gas starts appearing. People are choking, the doors are locked. The people die of laughing and the Joker is long time gone!\r\n\r\n#Lol. Anyways this boy should suffer, not die.

  • betty.harris.3720 - 2012-07-24 09:19

    He appears to be putting on a very good show of being insane, it does not quite work. The man is obviously just wicked and needs to be locked away for the rest of his natural life.

      rob.gunning.1 - 2012-07-24 11:04

      Obvious to you... Not to me. What was his motive? If there is a motive then you can argue that he is not insane. Without motive, how can it be argued that he is sane?

  • cheslyn.francis - 2012-07-24 10:33

    Check the fluoride levels in Colorado's water! Damn, how many times must it happen in the same state, and having such free access to weapons! Send him to Pollsmoor!

  • shirley.steenkamp - 2012-07-24 11:21

    The bottom line is,he planned this for months,created some pretty serious devices to booby trap his flat[which could of killed even more] and what would the point be to either jail him for life or send him to a mental insitution?? There is no "recovery" from this. He should be given the injection and save time,money and grief!

  • Matthew - 2012-07-24 15:47

    What mask was he wearing? bane mask? batman mask joker mask? Army suit? etc,theres no pics of the gear he was dressed in etc.

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