Judge agrees to delay plea for theater shooting suspect

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Story highlights

  • Victim's father cries out, "Rot in hell, Holmes" at hearing
  • The judge allows more time for the theater shooting suspect's attorneys to prepare
  • James Holmes is next scheduled to appear March 12

The judge overseeing the case against suspected Colorado movie theater gunman James Holmes agreed to delay arraignment in the case to allow defense lawyers more time to pore over 30,000 pages of evidence and hundreds of DVDs and CDs.

The arraignment -- a formal reading of charges by the court and, frequently, the entering of a plea by the defendant -- had been scheduled for Friday after Judge William Sylvester ruled Thursday that prosecutors had provided sufficient evidence in the preliminary hearing for the case to proceed to trial. The preliminary hearing ended Wednesday

Sylvester said he was concerned Holmes' case could be headed for appeal if he moved too quickly with the arraignment. That step is now scheduled March 12.

Holmes is charged with a total of 166 counts of murder, attempted murder and other charges in the July 20 shooting rampage at an Aurora, Colorado, movie theater that left 12 people dead and scores injured.

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Authorities say he booby-trapped his apartment with explosives, then traveled to the movie theater armed with four weapons, tear gas and body armor planning to kill audience members. At the preliminary hearing, police who responded described hellish scenes inside the theater and described finding Holmes, dressed in body armor, standing outside, seeming "detached from it all," according to Officer Jason Oviatt.

At the conclusion of Friday's brief hearing, the father of one of the victim's shouted out, "Rot in hell, Holmes."

Sylvester called everyone back into the courtroom, apologized to the man -- Steve Hernandez -- for the loss of daughter Rebecca Wingo and asked if he could count on no similar episodes from Hernandez in the future.

"I meant no disrespect to you or the court," Hernandez told the judge. "I can promise you no further outbursts."

When Holmes returns to court in March, the list of charges will be read to him and he will have an opportunity to enter a plea, Arapahoe County District Attorney George Brauchler told reporters.

"There are varying pleas available for him to enter on that date," Brauchler said.

During Holmes' preliminary hearing, defense attorneys had been expected to call some witnesses and introduce a defense claiming "diminished capacity" on Holmes' part. But defense attorney Daniel King told the judge attorneys had changed their mind and no longer wanted to put on a case during that hearing.

According to the Colorado Bar Association, "diminished capacity" relates to a person's ability or inability "to make adequately considered decisions" regarding his or her legal representation because of "mental impairment or for some other reason."

At the preliminary hearing, prosecutors presented evidence of what they said was considerable planning by Holmes prior to the shooting, including trips to the theater to photograph interior and exterior doorways and a complicated web of improvised explosives at his apartment.