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Colorado shooting: Suspect is charged, no word on death penalty (+video)

Colorado shooting suspect James Holmes faces 142 counts, including killing with an attitude of 'extreme indifference to the value of human life generally.' Prosecutors are consulting with victims and their families over whether to seek the death penalty.

By Staff writer / July 30, 2012

Family members arrive at the Arapahoe County Courthouse for an arraignment hearing for accused theater shooter James Holmes on Monday in Centennial, Colo.

Alex Brandon/AP

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Boulder, Colo.

James Holmes had his second court appearance Monday, as prosecutors formally filed the charges against him.

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James Holmes is charged with 24 counts of murder, two each for the 12 people killed, and 116 counts of attempted murder, two each for the 58 injured. The 24-year-old is charged with a shooting at an Aurora, Colo. movie theater.

Mr. Holmes, accused of opening fire in an Aurora, Colo., movie theater this month, killing 12 people and injuring 58, was charged with 142 counts, including 24 counts of first-degree murder, 116 counts of attempted murder, one count of possession of an explosive device, and one count of a sentence enhancer for a crime of violence.

He was charged twice for each of the individuals killed. Colorado has several different classes of murder charges. One set of the charges refers to the fact that Holmes allegedly shot after deliberation. The second set accuses him of killing “under circumstances evidencing an attitude of universal malice manifesting extreme indifference to the value of human life generally."

Holmes also waived his right to a preliminary hearing within 35 days.

The judge, William Sylvester, set a date for a preliminary hearing Nov. 12. The next court hearing in the case will be Aug. 9, when the court will address a motion filed by several media outlets to unseal records in the case. A court order has kept virtually all case documents sealed, and a gag order has limited what attorneys, police officers, and others can say about the case.

Holmes made his first court appearance a week ago; this time, cameras and electronic equipment were barred from the room.

The charges were hardly a surprise, since Holmes’s involvement in the shooting, and the nature of the crimes, seem clear. At this point, most of the speculation centers on whether Colorado prosecutors will seek the death penalty for Holmes, and whether his defense team will be able to mount an insanity defense.

Capital punishment in Colorado exists, though it’s seldom used. In the past 45 years, one person has been executed in the state: Gary Lee Davis, in 1997, for rape and murder. (Between 1972 and 1984, the state had no death penalty.) Three people now sit on death row.

But it also seems likely that prosecutors will seek the death penalty in Holmes’s case.

“If James Holmes isn’t executed,” former Denver prosecutor Craig Silverman told Reuters last week, “Colorado may as well throw away its death penalty law.”

To qualify for the death penalty, Colorado law says, one of 17 aggravating factors must be present in addition to first-degree murder.

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