January 2, 2013 / 4:15 PM / 7 years ago

Evidence in Colorado theater shooting to be revealed

CENTENNIAL, Colo. (Reuters) - Evidence from a shooting in July in a Colorado movie theater, that killed 12 movie-goers and wounded 58, will be made public for the first time at a hearing next week, prosecutors said on Wednesday.

James Holmes, suspect in a July 20 shooting rampage at a movie theatre which left 12 people dead and 70 more wounded, is seen in this undated police handout photo released by the Arapahoe County Sheriff's Office in Littleton, Colorado. REUTERS/Arapahoe County Sheriff's Office/Handout

The evidence will be presented to a district judge who will decide if there are sufficient grounds for James Holmes, accused of the shootings, to stand trial.

Holmes, a 25-year-old former neuroscience graduate student, is charged with multiple counts of murder and attempted murder for the shooting rampage, in the Denver suburb of Aurora, Colorado, on July 20.

The defendant, who was in court on Wednesday along with some of the victims’ families, is accused of opening fire during a midnight screening of the latest Batman movie, “The Dark Knight Rises.”

Attorneys said they were prepared to proceed next Monday with a preliminary hearing, at which prosecutors will lay out their evidence so that Arapahoe County District Judge William Sylvester may decide if there is a basis for trying Holmes.

Prosecutors told Sylvester they plan to present DVDs, photographs and 911 calls at the hearing, which could last a week. With much of the evidence in the case under seal so far, the hearing will be the first time that some details in the case will be publicly released.

Holmes’ lawyers, whom analysts have suggested may be laying the groundwork for an insanity defense, said they would object to some expected testimony by witnesses on the grounds that it was hearsay.

At previous hearings, a defense lawyer has said Holmes suffered from an unspecified mental illness.

Minutes into the screening of the film, police have said, Holmes left the theater to don a suit of tactical body armor, a helmet and a gas mask, before returning to open fire with multiple weapons on the unsuspecting crowd.

Multiple personal injury and wrongful death lawsuits have been brought against theater chain Cinemark USA Inc by survivors and relatives of those killed in the shooting rampage.

Over the holiday period, Cinemark had invited relatives of the victims to attend a remembrance evening on January 17 marking the theater’s reopening, an offer that the families slammed on Wednesday as “disgusting” and “wholly offensive.”

“During the holiday, we didn’t think anyone or anything could make our grief worse but you, Cinemark, have managed to do just that by ... inviting us to attend the re-opening of your theater in Aurora where our loved ones were massacred,” 15 relatives of the victims wrote in an open letter to the theater chain.

“Timing is everything and yours is awful,” the letter said.

The signatories said they would urge other victims, their friends and families to boycott “the killing field of our children.”

Cinemark could not immediately be reached for comment.

Reporting by Keith Coffman; Additional reporting by Tim Gaynor; Writing by Colleen Jenkins; Editing by Bernadette Baum and Steve Orlofsky

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