LAWYERS FOR THE alleged Colorado theatre gunman have declined to make their case at a preliminary hearing, setting the stage for a ruling on whether James Holmes can stand trial over the massacre.
The surprise decision came as more evidence was presented, including iPhone pictures taken by the suspected killer hours before the shooting last July. The images show him posing with weapons, sporting orange hair and wearing black contact lenses.
Judge William Sylvester adjourned the court after the defence announcement today. He scheduled a new hearing for Friday. It appears increasingly likely that the judge will call for a trial and Holmes’ arraignment.
The 25-year-old is accused of shooting dead 12 people and injuring at least 58 during a midnight premiere screening of a Batman movie in an Aurora, Colorado cinema.
Chantel Blunk, left, is escorted by a victims assistant as she arrives for the third day of a preliminary hearing. Chantel’s husband Jon was killed in the shooting. (AP Photo/Ed Andrieski)
Since Monday, prosecutors have called witnesses who gave harrowing accounts of the slaughter, and played 911 emergency calls in which the chaos and loud gunshot booms could be clearly heard.
Holmes’s lawyers were expected to present witnesses today to bolster a case that he may be mentally unfit to stand trial. But in the end they announced they would not.
“We’ve had a change of position,” public defender Daniel King (below) told the court in Centennial, Colorado, where Holmes has sat staring vacantly as he listened to the chilling evidence against him.
“This is neither the proper venue or time to present a show or some truncated defense. This is not a trial. We have no evidence or argument about probable cause,” King added.
Before the defense decision, prosecutors finished questioning a last witness, who gave testimony about photos taken from Holmes’s iPhone hours before the slaughter on 20 July last year.
One showed him posing with a Glock handgun, with his orange hair – subsequently seen in his first appearance in court after the massacre – and black contact lenses, which were later found in his apartment.
Another of the pictures, presented in court, showed a bed with items later recovered from the theatre and his apartment, including a bullet-proof vest and gun magazines.
Prosecutor Karen Pearson (above) said the pictures added to evidence that Holmes had planned the massacre in detail in advance, and that the killings therefore amount to premeditated murder.
Other pictures recovered showed that Holmes had checked out the theatre, both from inside and in the rear parking lot near the emergency exit he came in through before opening fire.
“He picked the perfect venue for this crime,” Pearson said. “He didn’t care who he killed. He intended to kill them all. He certainly had enough ammunition to do so.”
“The pictures go to deliberation, motive and intent,” she told the court, adding that earlier evidence about Holmes’s purchase of weapons, ammunition and body armour also showed meticulous planning.
Before this week’s hearings there had been speculation that Holmes’s lawyers could seek a plea agreement, under which he would admit guilt in return for, for example, avoiding the death penalty.
His lawyers could also have argued that he was mentally unfit to stand trial, though that appears unlikely given their decision not to present witnesses after all.
The judge adjourned the case until Friday morning at 9am (4pm GMT), when Holmes could be arraigned for trial. His decision could be announced before that online, court officials said.