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Courtroom drama at Colorado cinema massacre trial

A shout of ‘rot in hell’ was heard as the judge delayed the official laying of charges against James Holmes.

A man wears a Batman shirt as he arrives for court with other victims.
A man wears a Batman shirt as he arrives for court with other victims.
Image: Ed Andrieski/AP/Press Association Images

THE FATHER OF a victim of the Colorado cinema massacre yelled “rot in hell” at the alleged gunman today, after a judge delayed officially charging him a day after ruling he stand trial.

Four or five people walked out of court after judge William Sylvester postponed for two months a hearing to arraign James Holmes, the 25-year-old who is accused of shooting dead 12 people  and injuring at least 58 others on 20 July last year.

Following preliminary hearings this week, it was ordered that Holmes will face trial over the massacre in Aurora, outside Denver.

But the suspect’s defense lawyers objected to the arraignment – the official laying of charges – on Friday morning, when it was meant to take place, and the judge postponed the hearing until 12 March.

After the announcement several people left the court and shortly after Steve Hernandez (pictured below), father of victim Rebecca Wingo, shouted “Rot in hell, Holmes!” and he was immediately taken out of the room by guards.

After the court settled he returned, and apologised. The judge told him: “I am so terribly sorry for your loss. I cannot imagine the emotions that must be raging” but he then asked Hernandez to follow the court’s rules of conduct.

The victim’s father replied: “I meant no disrespect to your honour. I can promise no more outbursts.”

Holmes is accused over the 20 July shooting at a midnight screening of the Batman movie, The Dark Knight Rises. The massacre briefly revived America’s perennial debate about gun control.

Josh Nolan, a single father of two who was shot in the leg and in the arm at the theater uses a cane as he leaves the theatre. (Image: Ed Andrieski/AP/Press Association Images)

Witnesses said Holmes threw smoke bomb-type devices before opening fire randomly with weapons including an AR-15 military-style rifle, a 12-gauge shotgun and a .40-caliber pistol.

Over three days earlier this week, prosecutors called witnesses who gave chilling accounts of the slaughter, and played 911 emergency calls in which the chaos and loud booms of gunshots could be clearly heard.

Holmes’s lawyers had been expected to present witnesses to bolster a case that he may be mentally unfit to stand trial.

But in the end they announced they would not, and the judge ruled Thursday, in an order posted online, that prosecutors had established there was “probable cause” to believe the defendant committed the crimes.

“The court finds… that there is probable cause to believe that defendant had the requisite mental state… necessary to commit the crime of first degree murder after deliberation,” he wrote.

Chantel Blunk, center, holds hands with two women as they arrive for a court proceeding. Blunk’s husband Jon was killed in the theatre. (Image: Ed Andrieski/AP/Press Association Images)

During this week’s preliminary hearing, the prosecution presented evidence that Holmes had planned the attack well in advance.

It included photos found on his iPhone suggesting he had surveyed the cinema weeks before the shootings. There were also several images showing him posing with guns and explosive devices hours before the massacre.

Holmes made at least 16 purchases from May to July 2012, including four firearms, incendiary devices and almost 6,300 rounds of ammunition, the court heard.

Before the judge ordered that the suspected gunman stand trial, there had been speculation that Holmes’ lawyers could seek a plea agreement under which he would admit guilt in return for avoiding the death penalty.

Colorado court shown chilling images from suspect’s iPhone

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AFP

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