Weeklong hearing dubbed a "mini-trial" will delve into suspect's alleged role in harrowing movie theater massacre
Overpowering evidence against the man suspected of slaughtering 12 innocents in a darkened Colorado theater as the latest “Batman” flick unspooled last summer is set to be unveiled for the first time on Monday.
Onetime neuroscience graduate student and alleged mass murderer James Holmes returns to court to face a weeklong hearing — dubbed a “mini-trial” — into his role in the harrowing July 20 massacre in the Denver suburb of Aurora.
The preliminary hearing could be the closest thing to an actual trial Aurora’s survivors and still-grieving family members ever see — because if the evidence is as air-tight as it seems, Holmes could accept a plea bargain.
In the first official public disclosure of the case against the 24-year-old alleged madman, prosecutors are expected to present testimony from scores of witnesses and dozens of victims — and play chilling recordings of 911 calls and video footage shot inside the multiplex.
There are two possible scenarios likely to unfold after the state outlines how Holmes allegedly turned a family movie theater screening “The Dark Knight Rises” into a killing field:
-Arapahoe County District Judge William Sylvester could determine there is enough evidence to send the case to trial — and Holmes could face the death penalty or life in prison without parole if convicted of mass murder.
-The dazed, stubble-faced suspect who first showed up in court with shocking orange-red hair — and whose lawyers have already said is mentally ill — could seek a plea deal before trial that would let him dodge the death penalty by reason of insanity.
A preliminary hearing typically sets the stage for a deal, said former federal prosecutor Laurie Levenson, by letting the prosecution present the strength of its case — and allowing the defense to probe for potential weaknesses.
“It’s often the first key step to resolving the case,” said Levenson, who is now a professor at Loyola Law School in Los Angeles. “It’s a mini-trial that lets both sides see the writing on the wall.”