Suspected Aurora Shooter Charged With 142 Offenses

The man accused in the Colorado theater shooting faces a total of 142 charges — including 24 counts of first degree murder. James Holmes was in court again on Monday. Colorado Public Radio's Megan Verlee was there and speaks with Audie Cornish.

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AUDIE CORNISH, HOST:

From NPR News, this is ALL THINGS CONSIDERED. I'm Audie Cornish.

Twenty-four counts of murder, 116 counts of attempted murder: 142 counts in all. James Holmes was in court again today where prosecutors laid out the charges against him. Holmes is the man accused of killing 12 and injuring 58 when he opened fire in a crowded movie theater earlier this month.

Colorado Public Radio's Megan Verlee was in the courtroom today and joins us now. And, Megan, let's start with that breakdown of the charges. As we said, 12 people were killed, but there are 24 counts of murder here. So how does this work?

MEGAN VERLEE, BYLINE: Well, they're accusing him of two different types of first-degree murder. One charge is that he acted with deliberation and forethought in planning the attack, and the other that he acted so recklessly by spraying the theater with bullets that he had to know his action was likely to kill someone.

It potentially gives future jurors more grounds on which to find him guilty. And the charges do make it possible for prosecutors to seek the death penalty, although that decision is probably months away.

CORNISH: Now last week at his first court appearance, Holmes was described as appearing dazed and out of it. What was his demeanor like today?

VERLEE: To me, he seemed much more alert. He never gave much of an expression on his face, but he spent a lot of time looking at the judge. He fidgeted a bit in his chair. He consulted with his attorneys. And he actually spoke in court today, answering a question from the judge with a quiet yes. So he definitely seemed more engaged than last Monday. It also seems like he's straightened up his appearance a bit. His hair still has that red-orange dye job in it, but this time it was combed down, and it looked a bit more controlled.

There were a number of victims and victims' family members in the courtroom today. One woman came in a wheelchair with a bandage around her leg. Several people came wearing "Batman" T-shirts. Most of them seemed really tired of all the media attention, but I did talk with the great-aunt of the youngest fatality, Veronica Moser.

She says she just wanted to see Holmes for herself, even though seeing him filled her with anger and also some sadness for him. She believes he does have some sort of mental health condition, and she questions the medical system that let him slip through the cracks.

CORNISH: Now the judge also heard about two motions from lawyers today, and one regarding a package Holmes sent to A psychiatrist at the University of Colorado. News of this surfaced late last week. Did we learn anything new about that today?

VERLEE: Well, we got a lot of confirmation, some of the things that were in those news reports, although, ironically, prosecution has been trying to undermine them and saying that they don't have a basis from law enforcement sources. But it seems that we got a confirmation that the package contains a notebook, although no word of what's in that notebook.

And there's a fight brewing about whether the package and its contents will even be admissible in court or whether they're protected by doctor-patient confidentiality. A lot of that is going to rest on how the defense decides to proceed. If they try to argue that Holmes is not guilty by reason of insanity, they may very well want to use that notebook to make their case. But if they do that, then the prosecution gets to have a look at it too.

CORNISH: A few seconds left here, Megan. Tell us, when's the next court date?

VERLEE: There's a hearing next week to argue over whether more of the court document should be publicly available. That's a suit that NPR is a party of. And a week after that, prosecutors and defense will get a chance to argue over the notebook and what to do with that.

CORNISH: Colorado Public Radio's Megan Verlee in Denver. Thanks so much.

VERLEE: Thank you.

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