US & World

Colorado shooting suspect charged with 24 counts of murder

James Holmes, in an Arapahoe County, Colo., court on July 23.
James Holmes, in an Arapahoe County, Colo., court on July 23.

Months of pre-trial legal arguments began in earnest this morning when James Holmes, the man accused of killing 12 people and wounding 58 others in a July 20 shooting rampage at a movie theater in Aurora, Colo., appeared in an Arapahoe County, Colo., court.

Holmes, who has only been seen once in public during a brief court hearing last Monday, was charged with 24 counts of murder and 116 counts of attempted murder. He was also charged with one count of possession of explosives and one count of "crime of violence" for allegedly using deadly weapons.

As was expected, and previously reported by Kirk Siegler of NPR member station KUNS, the 24-year-old Holmes was charged with two crimes for each victim.

But a trial is still months, if not longer, away. Siegler said that "after Monday's hearing, attorneys on both sides will continue combing through thousands of pages of police reports and evidence." And, legal experts say "defense attorneys might try to paint Holmes as someone who is deeply troubled and unfit for trial."

Among the other issues expected to come up today, The Denver Post says, is an argument from Holmes' attorneys that "a notebook Holmes allegedly mailed to his psychiatrist prior to the shootings is a privileged doctor-patient communication and should be turned over to the defense."

Also today, the judge is expected to consider the request from several media outlets (including NPR) that he lift an order that sealed the case file.

As for what type of punishment prosecutors will seek, University of Colorado, Boulder, sociology professor Michael Radelet tells Siegler he thinks prosecutor Carol Chambers will not go for the death penalty. Radelet, an expert on capital punishment, says that because such cases can take decades and cost millions of dollars to prosecute, the district attorney will seek life in prison.

Siegler adds that Colorado "has had only one death row execution since 1967."

This story has been updated to reflect new information coming out of the court room today.

Copyright 2012 National Public Radio.