Massacre suspect appears as 'Joker'
Jul 23, 2012 / 6:53 pm
His hair dyed a shocking comic-book shade of orange-red, the former doctoral student accused of killing moviegoers at a showing of the new Batman movie in Colorado appeared in court for the first time on Monday, but he didn't seem to be there at all.
James Holmes shuffled into court in a maroon jailhouse jumpsuit with his hands cuffed, the first look the world got of the 24-year-old since the Friday shooting that left 12 people dead and 58 others injured at a packed midnight screening of "The Dark Knight Rises." It was one of the worst mass shootings in recent U.S. history.
Unshaven and appearing dazed, Holmes sat virtually motionless during the hearing, his eyes drooping as the judge advised him of the severity of the case. At one point, Holmes simply closed his eyes. Prosecutors said they didn't know if he was being medicated.
Throughout the hearing, he never said a word. His attorneys did all the talking when the judge asked him if he understood his rights.
His demeanour, however, angered the relatives of some of the victims of the shooting. Some stared at him the entire hearing, including Tom Teves, whose son, Alex, was killed in the attack. Teves watched Holmes intently, sizing him up.
"I saw the coward in court today and Alex could have wiped the floor with him without breaking a sweat," said Teves, whose son, a physical therapist, dove to protect his girlfriend.
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 behavioural 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 coloured. 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 coloured hair.
Investigators found a Batman mask inside his apartment after they finished clearing it of booby traps, 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 armour and was armed with an assault rifle, a shotgun and handguns during the attack, was arrested shortly afterward. He is refusing to co-operate, authorities said. They said it could take months to identify a motive.
Holmes, who is being held in isolation at the Arapahoe County detention facility, walked into the courtroom with attorneys and others. He sat down in a jury box, next to one of his attorneys.
His entrance 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.
After the hearing, prosecutor Carol Chambers said that "at this point, everyone is interested in a fair trial with a just outcome for everybody involved." Chambers said earlier her office is considering pursuing the death penalty against Holmes.
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