Accused Movie Theater Gunman James Holmes Hit With 24 Counts of Murder

Accused gunman James Holmes could get death penalty for murder charges.

ByABC News
July 30, 2012, 10:01 AM

AURORA, Colo. July 30, 2012— -- Accused movie theater shooter James Holmes was charged with 24 counts of first degree murder today, two counts for each of the people he is accused of killing during an alleged shooting spree at a movie theater in Aurora, Colo., on July 20.

The 24-year-old PhD student is accused of a mass killing in which he sprayed three weapons' full of ammunition into a crowded movie theater during the midnight premiere screening of the latest Batman movie, "The Dark Knight Rises." Twelve people were killed and 58 were wounded in the worst mass shooting in U.S. history.

Today, he was officially read his charges in Aurora District Court. Each death carried two separate murder charges, one for showing premeditation and one for showing extreme indifference to life. Both of the charges carry the death penalty as a possible sentence.

Holmes appeared in court wearing a maroon colored jumpsuit, his hair still dyed an orange-pink color, and his loopy mannerisms similar to his first appearance in court. Throughout the hearing, Holmes' eyes sporadically grew wider as he raised his eyebrows, stared blankly around the room, and then stared down into his lap.

He spoke once, when the judge asked him whether he wanted to waive his right to a preliminary hearing within 30 days, answering simply, "Yes."

Holmes was also charged with 116 counts of attempted first degree murder, as well as one count of possessing an explosive device and one count of violent crime. The suspect faces a total of 142 criminal charges.

Prosecutor Carol Chambers asked the judge to read aloud the various penalties associated with each count, including possibilities of prison time, life in prison, even death. Holmes was quiet while the penalties were read, but seemed focus intently on the speaker for the only time in his court appearances.

Prosecutors will have 60 days from the date of the arraignment to decide if they will seek the death sentence for Holmes.

The stepmother of Ashley Moser, who was shot during the attack and suffered a miscarriage, said today that she wants to see justice served for Ashley and other victims.

"I don't care what the motive is. He knew what he was doing. That's it. I want to see justice," Ana Moser said.

Don Lader, who was in the movie theater during the shooting but escaped without injury, showed up to court today wearing a Batman "The Dark Knight Rises" T-shirt.

"To show our resilience," Lader said about his shirt. "We're now part of a community."

Lader said he used his Marines training during the shooting to listen for a pause in the gunfire and then get his wife and himself out of the "hostile situation."

He said Holmes looked in court "like an animal in a corner, but not one that was trying to fight back. Like a sickly animal."

This was the second time Holmes has appeared in court. His first appearance in court on July 23 raised questions among some observers about his mental competency. The suspected shooter appeared dazed with his head drooping at times.

The judge also heard arguments today about a package Holmes mailed to his psychiatrist at the University of Colorado, Lynne Fenton. Holmes' attorneys filed a motion Friday demanding that the court "immediately produce all discovery pertaining to the seizure of the package."

The Arapahoe County District Attorney's office, representing the state, filed an objection to the motion and asked that it be denied. The DA said that the motion by Holmes's attorneys was "based on certain factual assumptions that are not established by evidence and that the People believe are of dubious validity, if not outright incorrect."

A decision on the arguments was not reached, though prosecutors were ordered to turn over the notebook to defense attorneys.

ABC News' Lauren Pearle contributed to this report