Shooting suspect formally charged

  • Los Angeles Times
  • July 30, 2012 - 9:35 PM

CENTENNIAL, COLO. - The hair was still bright orange, but this time it lay neatly combed into bangs. The demeanor was more focused, less wild-eyed than one week before.

Outwardly, it seemed to be a different James Eagan Holmes who appeared in court Monday to face 142 criminal counts, including 24 of first-degree murder, stemming from the mass shooting at a movie theater in Aurora. This was a more composed figure, one who made eye contact with the judge and answered with a polite "Yes" to the one question he was asked.

To family members and friends of those who died or were wounded while attending a new Batman movie, those outward manifestations were far less important than their perceptions of the suspect's inner self.

"It was important to come today to see him as what he was," said Maryellen Hansen, whose niece Ashley Moser was shot, with Moser's 6-year-old daughter, Veronica, killed. Hansen called Holmes "an evil, diabolical presence."

"He had a poker face on," she said, "so coldblooded, very indifferent."

The maximum penalty for a first-degree murder conviction is death. It is not known yet whether prosecutors will seek the death penalty.

The complaint charges Holmes twice for each of the 12 people killed and 58 people injured in the shooting.

One set of charges accused him of acting with "deliberation" and "intent." The other set accused him of carrying out the crimes with "universal malice" and "extreme indifference to the value of human life generally."

The second set, charging him with indifference to life, may represent "a fallback theory" in case prosecutors fail to prove intent, according to Marianne Wesson, a professor at the University of Colorado Law School and an expert in criminal law.

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