published Tuesday, July 24th, 2012

James Holmes' bizarre behavior angers victims' families

James E. Holmes, left, appears in Arapahoe County District Court with defense attorney Tamara Brady on Monday in Centennial, Colo. Holmes is being held on suspicion of first-degree murder and could also face additional counts of aggravated assault and weapons violations stemming from a mass shooting last Friday in a movie theater in Aurora, Colo., that killed 12 and injured dozens of others.
James E. Holmes, left, appears in Arapahoe County District Court with defense attorney Tamara Brady on Monday in Centennial, Colo. Holmes is being held on suspicion of first-degree murder and could also face additional counts of aggravated assault and weapons violations stemming from a mass shooting last Friday in a movie theater in Aurora, Colo., that killed 12 and injured dozens of others.
Photo by Associated Press /Chattanooga Times Free Press.

CENTENNIAL, Colo. -- His hair dyed a shocking comic-book shade of orange-red, James Holmes showed up in court for the first time, but didn't seem to be there at all.

The world's first look at the man accused of killing 12 moviegoers and injuring 58 others in a shooting rampage at a packed midnight screening of the new Batman film was that of a sleepy, seemingly inattentive suspect.

Holmes shuffled into court Monday in a maroon jailhouse jumpsuit with his hands cuffed. Unshaven and appearing dazed, Holmes sat virtually motionless, his eyes drooping as the judge advised him of the severity of the case. At one point, Holmes simply closed his eyes.

He never said a word.

Prosecutors said they didn't know if he was being medicated. His demeanor, however, angered victims' relatives. Tom Teves, whose son, Alex, was killed in the attack, watched Holmes intently throughout the roughly 12-minute hearing, sizing up the 24-year-old former doctoral student.

"I saw the coward in court today, and Alex could have wiped the floor with him without breaking a sweat," Teves said. His son, a physical therapist, dove to protect his girlfriend during "The Dark Knight Rises" shooting at a multiplex in nearby Aurora in the Denver suburbs.

The court appearance gave millions the chance to scrutinize Holmes' every movement, every flutter of his heavy eyelids and form their opinions.

"It struck me that this is a person who's been through an emotional maelstrom and therefore might be totally wiped out emotionally," said Dr. Jeffrey Gardere, an assistant professor of behavioral medicine at Touro College of Osteopathic Medicine.

Gardere said there could be "a psychotic process going on, and we see that being acted out there. Or there might be some sort of malingering going on. In other words, trying to make himself look worse than he actually is. Or maybe a combination of all of those things."

The hearing was the first confirmation that Holmes' hair was colored. On Friday, there were reports of his hair being red and that he told arresting officers that he was "The Joker." Batman's nemesis in the fictional Gotham has brightly colored hair.

Authorities have declined to confirm if Holmes told officers that he was Batman's enemy. Investigators found a Batman mask inside his apartment, a law enforcement official close to the investigation said Sunday on condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to speak to the news media.

Holmes, whom police say donned body armor and was armed with an assault rifle, a shotgun and handguns during the attack, was arrested shortly afterward. His home was booby-trapped with a trip wire, explosives and unknown liquids that took a day to disarm.

On Monday, security was tight as uniformed sheriff's deputies were stationed outside, including on the roofs of both court buildings.

Holmes' entrance into the courtroom was barely noticeable, but relatives of shooting victims leaned forward in their seats to catch their first glimpse of him. Two women held hands tightly; one shook her head. One woman's eyes welled up with tears.

Holmes sat down in a jury box, next to one of his attorneys. When the judge asked him if he understood his rights, his attorneys did all the talking.

Prosecutor Carol Chambers said her office is considering pursuing the death penalty, but that a decision will be made in consultation with the victims' families.

At a news conference in San Diego, where Holmes' family lives, their lawyer, Lisa Damiani, refused to answer questions about him and his relationship to the family. She said later: "Everyone's concerned" about the possibility of the death penalty.

When asked if they stood by Holmes, Damiani said, "Yes they do. He's their son."

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

Weeks before, Holmes quit a 35-student Ph.D. program in neuroscience for reasons that aren't clear. He had earlier taken an intense oral exam that marks the end of the first year, but University of Colorado Denver officials would not say if he passed, citing privacy concerns.

At a news conference, university officials refused to answer questions about Holmes. "To the best of our knowledge at this point, we think we did everything that we should have done," said Donald Elliman, the university chancellor.

The judge has issued an order barring lawyers in the case from publicly commenting on matters including evidence, whether a plea deal is in the works or results of any examination or test performed on someone.

Some of the victims' families, who had traveled to Colorado to attend the hearing, planned to return home to plan funerals. Chambers said her office would keep them informed through various methods, including the news media, while following the judge's order.

"At this point everyone is interested in a fair trial with a just outcome for everybody involved," she said.


Associated Press writers Kristen Wyatt and Thomas Peipert in Aurora; Dan Elliott and Colleen Slevin in Denver and Alex Katz in New York contributed to this report.

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