The father of a victim of the Colorado cinema massacre yelled “rot in hell!” at the alleged gunman on Friday, when a judge delayed officially charging him a day after ruling he stand trial.
Four or five people walked out of court after judge William Sylvester postponed for two months a hearing to arraign James Holmes, the 25-year-old who is accused of shooting 12 moviegoers dead and injuring at least 58 others.
Following preliminary hearings this week it was ordered Thursday that Holmes will face trial over the massacre in Aurora, outside Denver, last July.
But the suspect’s defense lawyers objected to the arraignment — the official laying of charges — on Friday morning, when it was meant to take place, and the judge postponed the hearing until March 12.
After the announcement several people left the court and shortly after Steve Hernandez, father of victim Rebecca Wingo, shouted “Rot in hell, Holmes!” and he was immediately taken out of the room by guards.
After the court settled he returned, and apologized. The judge told him: “I am so terribly sorry for your loss. I cannot imagine the emotions that must be raging” but he then asked Hernandez to follow the court’s rules of conduct.
The victim’s father replied: “I meant no disrespect to your honor. I can promise no more outbursts.”
Holmes is accused over the July 20 shooting at a midnight screening of the Batman movie, “The Dark Knight Rises.” The massacre briefly revived America’s perennial debate about gun control.
Witnesses said Holmes threw smoke bomb-type devices before opening fire randomly with weapons including an AR-15 military-style rifle, a 12-gauge shotgun and a .40-caliber pistol.
Over three days earlier this week, prosecutors called witnesses who gave chilling accounts of the slaughter, and played 911 emergency calls in which the chaos and loud booms of gunshots could be clearly heard.
Holmes’s lawyers had been expected to present witnesses to bolster a case that he may be mentally unfit to stand trial.
But in the end they announced they would not, and the judge ruled Thursday, in an order posted online, that prosecutors had established there was “probable cause” to believe the defendant committed the crimes.
“The court finds… that there is probable cause to believe that defendant had the requisite mental state… necessary to commit the crime of first degree murder after deliberation,” he wrote.
During this week’s preliminary hearing, the prosecution presented evidence that Holmes had planned the attack well in advance.
It included photos found on his iPhone suggesting he had surveyed the cinema weeks before the shootings. There were also several images showing him posing with guns and explosive devices hours before the massacre.
Holmes made at least 16 purchases from May to July 2012, including four firearms, incendiary devices and almost 6,300 rounds of ammunition, the court heard.
Before the judge ordered that the suspected gunman stand trial, there had been speculation that Holmes’ lawyers could seek a plea agreement under which he would admit guilt in return for avoiding the death penalty.