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Colorado shooting suspect appears in court ahead of formal charges

James Holmes appears in court with bright orange-red hair, as prosecutors consider whether to seek the death penalty.

James Holmes did not speak during today's court proceedings.
James Holmes did not speak during today's court proceedings.
Image: AP Photo/Denver Post, RJ Sangosti, Pool

THE SUSPECT in last Friday’s cinema shooting in Aurora, Colorado has appeared in court for the first time – declining to speak as he was briefed on the charges he is likely to face.

Sporting brightly-dyed red-orange hair, 24-year-old James Holmes appeared tired and drooping – at one point closing his eyes entirely – during the brief proceedings following last Friday’s shooting at the Century 16 cinema, in which 12 people were killed and another 58 wounded.

Defence lawyers answered on Holmes’ behalf when he was asked by the presiding judge if he understood his rights. Prosecutors said afterwards that they were unsure if Holmes was on medication.

Authorities say Holmes is refusing to co-operate with them and that given his resistance to answering questions, it could take months to discern the true motives behind the attacks.

After the hearing, prosecutor Carol Chambers said that “at this point, everyone is interested in a fair trial with a just outcome for everybody involved.”

Chambers had earlier confirmed that she was considering pursuing the death penalty against Holmes, but said a decision on the punishment sought would be made in consultation with families of the victims.

Holmes is being held on suspicion of first-degree murder, and he could also face additional counts of aggravated assault and weapons violations. He has been assigned a public defence lawyer, and is expected to be formally charged next Monday.

Police believe Holmes began buying guns in stores in Denver, about 20 minutes’ drive away, nearly two months before Friday’s shooting – and that he had received at least 50 packages in four months at his home and at school.

Officials at the University of Colorado Anschutz Medical Campus are looking into whether Holmes used his position in a PhD programme – from which he quit last month – to collect hazardous materials.

His reasons for quitting the course in June also remain unknown.

Additional reporting by AP

Read: Injured mother of youngest Aurora victim learns of daughter’s death

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Gavan Reilly

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