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James Eagan Holmes

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James Eagan Holmes

James Eagan Holmes
Born (1987-12-13) December 13, 1987
San Diego, California, U.S.
Residence Aurora, Colorado
Education B.S. Neuroscience[1]
Alma mater
Occupation Student
Known for Perpetrator of the 2012 Aurora shooting
Criminal status Jailed, pending trial

James Eagan Holmes (born December 13, 1987) is the accused perpetrator of a mass shooting that killed 12 people at a Century movie theater in Aurora, Colorado, on July 20, 2012.[3]

Holmes was hospitalized after attempting suicide several times while in jail in November 2012. He is currently held without bail and has entered a plea of not guilty on March 12, 2013. He has no known previous criminal record.[3] His attorneys had been expected to enter a plea of diminished capacity (which differs from an insanity plea), but they told the presiding judge in the preliminary hearing that they were not ready to decide on such a step yet, and needed more time to review the massive documentation on the case. Colorado State District Court Judge William Blair Sylvester, who was the trial judge overseeing the preliminaries, also was concerned about moving too fast in proceeding to the arraignment, which could produce further issues supporting an eventual appeal.

On March 12, 2013, a Colorado judge entered a plea of not guilty when Holmes' attorney claimed that his client was not prepared to enter a plea.[4] On March 27, 2013, Holmes's attorneys said he would plead guilty to avoid the death penalty, but the following day prosecutors said they are not ready to accept the offer. On the following Monday, prosecutors said they would seek the death penalty. He pleaded not guilty by reason of insanity[5] on June 4, 2013, which the judge accepted. The trial is scheduled for December 2014.

Personal life

James Eagan Holmes was born on December 13, 1987 in San Diego, California.[2] His father is a mathematician and scientist[6][7][8] with degrees from Stanford University, UCLA and UC Berkeley and his mother is a registered nurse.[9] He has one sister.[10] Holmes was raised in Castroville, California, where he attended elementary school,[11] and San Diego.[7][12][13] Holmes played soccer and ran cross-country in high school.[9] He attended a local Lutheran church with his family, according to the church's pastor.[14][15]

In Aurora, Holmes lived on Paris Street in a one-bedroom apartment, in a building with other students involved in health studies.[16] In a rental application for another apartment he applied for, he described himself as "quiet and easygoing".[17] He left some digital footprints, like a university email address, an old MySpace photo,[18] a dating profile on,[19] and a profile on Adult FriendFinder, as well as a resume at the employment website[20] According to a few sources, Holmes may have hired prostitutes and left reviews of them on an online message board.[21][22][23]

Education and career

In 2006, Holmes worked as an intern at the Salk Institute for Biological Studies where he was assigned to write computer code for an experiment. Holmes, who was described by his supervisor as stubborn, uncommunicative and socially inept, presented his project to the other interns at the end of the internship, but never actually completed it.[24][25] Holmes wrote of his experiences at the Salk Institute in a college application essay: "I had little experience in computer programming and the work was challenging to say the least. Nonetheless, I taught myself how to program in Flash and then construct a cross-temporal calibration model.... Completing the project and presenting my model at the end of the internship was exhilarating."[26]

Graduating from Westview High School in the Torrey Highlands community of San Diego in 2006,[8][27] Holmes attended the University of California, Riverside (UCR) and, in 2010, received his undergraduate degree in neuroscience with the highest honors.[28][29][30][31] He was a member of several honor societies, including Phi Beta Kappa and Golden Key.[32] According to UCR recommendation letters submitted to the University of Illinois at Urbana–Champaign (UIUC), Holmes graduated in the top 1% of his class with a 3.949 GPA. The UCR letters also described Holmes as "a very effective group leader’’ and a person who "takes an active role in his education, and brings a great amount of intellectual and emotional maturity into the classroom".[33]

In 2008, Holmes worked as a counselor at a residential summer camp in Glendale, California, that catered to children aged 7–14. There he was responsible for 10 children and had no disciplinary problems.[34]

In June 2011, Holmes enrolled as a Ph.D. student in neuroscience at the University of Colorado Anschutz Medical Campus in Aurora.[35] He received a $21,600 grant from the National Institutes of Health, according to agency records, which was disbursed in installments from July 2011 to June 2012. Holmes also received a $5,000 stipend from the University of Colorado, Denver.[36][37] Though Holmes received a letter of acceptance to UIUC, where he was offered a $22,600 stipend and free tuition, he declined their offer without specifying a reason.[33] Reviewers of Holmes' application at UIUC remembered his application because he submitted a picture of himself with a llama.[33]

In 2012, his academic performance declined,[38] and he scored poorly on the comprehensive exam in the spring. The university was not planning to expel him. However, Holmes was in the process of withdrawing from the university.[39] Three days after failing a key oral exam at the university in early June 2012, Holmes dropped out of his studies without further explanation.[40] At the time of his arrest, he gave his occupation as "laborer."[41]

Aurora theater shooting

Events leading to the shooting

Holmes' defense attorneys stated in a motion that he was a psychiatric patient of the medical director of Anschutz's Student Mental Health Services prior to the Aurora shooting. The prosecutor disagreed with that claim.[42][43] Four days after the release of the defense attorney's motion, the judge required this information to be blacked out.[44] CBS News later reported that Holmes met with at least three mental health professionals at the University of Colorado prior to the massacre.

One of Holmes' psychiatrists suspected, prior to the shooting, that Holmes suffered from mental illness and could be dangerous. A month before the shooting, Dr. Lynne Fenton reported to the campus police that he had made homicidal statements.[45]Two weeks prior to the shooting, he sent a text message asking a graduate student if the student had heard of the disorder dysphoric mania, and warning the student to stay away from him "because I am bad news".[46]

Holmes was a fan of superheroes, including Batman, and his apartment was decorated with Batman paraphernalia.[47]

Actions prior to shooting

On May 22, 2012, Holmes purchased a Glock 22 pistol at a Gander Mountain shop in Aurora. Six days later, on May 28, he bought a Remington 870 Express Tactical shotgun at a Bass Pro Shops in Denver.[48] On June 7, just hours after failing his oral exam at the university,[40] he purchased a Smith & Wesson M&P15 semi-automatic rifle from a Gander Mountain in Thornton, with a second Glock 22 pistol at the same Bass Pro Shops in Denver on July 6.[49] All the weapons were bought legally and background checks were performed.[50] In the four months prior to the shooting, Holmes also bought 3000 rounds of ammunition for the pistols, 3000 rounds for the M&P15, and 350 shells for the shotgun over the Internet.[51][52] On July 2, he placed an order for a Blackhawk Urban Assault Vest, two magazine holders and a knife at an online retailer.[51][53]

On June 25, less than a month before the shooting, Holmes emailed an application to join a gun club in Byers, Colorado. The owner, Glenn Rotkovich, called him several times throughout the following days to invite him to a mandatory orientation, but could only reach his answering machine. Due to the nature of Holmes' voice mail, which he described as "bizarre, freaky", "guttural, spoken with a deep voice, incoherent and rambling", Rotkovich instructed his staff to inform him if Holmes showed up, though Holmes neither appeared at the gun range nor called back. "In hindsight, looking back – and if I'd seen the movies – maybe I'd say it was like the Joker – I would have gotten the Joker out of it... It was like somebody was trying to be as weird as possible", Rotkovich said.[54]

Shooting and arrest

Century 16 at Town Center at Aurora, scene of the shooting

On July 20, 2012, police arrested an unresisting Holmes next to his car behind the Century 16 theater, moments after the 2012 Aurora shooting, in which Holmes allegedly set off several gas or smoke canisters and then opened fire on the theater audience, killing 12 and wounding 70.[55] The responding officers recovered several guns from inside the car and the theater. According to two federal authorities, Holmes had dyed his hair orange and had called himself "The Joker".[56] The claim that Holmes had called himself "The Joker" was later retracted by police[57] from news sources such as Face The Nation on the CBS News network.

Once apprehended, Holmes told the police that he had booby-trapped his apartment with explosive devices before heading to the theater.[13][58][59] Police later confirmed the presence of explosives in the apartment.[60]

Detention and court appearances

Holmes was initially jailed at Arapahoe Detention Center, under suicide watch.[61] He is being held in solitary confinement to protect him from other inmates, a routine precaution for high-profile cases.[62]

Holmes made his first court appearance in Centennial, Colorado on July 23, before Judge William B. Sylvester.[63] He was read his rights and no bond was given. A mandatory protection order was issued by the judge. The judge appointed a public defender. Holmes said nothing and never looked at the judge.[64] His appearance, which was described as "dazed"[65] and "confused"[66] fueled speculation about his mental state.[67]

On July 30, Colorado prosecutors filed formal charges against Holmes that included 24 counts of first degree murder, 116 counts of attempted murder, possession of explosive devices, and inciting violence. The multiple charges expand the opportunities for prosecutors to obtain convictions. For each person killed in the shooting, Holmes is charged with one count of murder with deliberation and one count of murder with extreme indifference.[68] Holmes agreed in court to waive his right to a preliminary hearing within 35 days.[69]

On August 9, Holmes's attorneys said their client is mentally ill and that they need more time to assess the nature of his illness. The disclosure was made at a court hearing in Centennial where news media organizations were asking a judge to unseal court documents in the case.[70]

On September 19, the prosecution filed a motion to add 10 new charges against Holmes and asked to amend 17 others. The additional charges would bring the total counts Holmes faces to 152.[71] Holmes appeared in the Arapahoe County Court house the following day for the first time without his dyed-red hair, but with cropped hair revealing his natural brown color.[72]

On September 28, court documents released by prosecutors say Holmes was revoked access to the University of Colorado campus because he threatened a professor. The university has said Holmes was denied access to non-public parts of the campus because he had withdrawn from school.[73]

On October 11, Holmes's attorneys asked Judge William Sylvester to postpone a preliminary hearing scheduled for November. On October 25, the preliminary hearing was set for the week of January 7.[74]

Holmes' lawyers filed an emergency motion on November 14 to delay a pre-trial hearing, citing an unspecified condition that has left him unable to appear in court: "As a result of developments over the past 24 hours, Mr. Holmes is in a condition that renders him unable to be present in court for tomorrow's hearing." They requested to delay the hearing, which they received. It was rescheduled for December.[75] Evidently, Holmes made various suicide attempts referred to as "half-hearted" in days before the scheduled hearing on November 15.[76]

Holmes returned to court on January 7, 2013, at which 9-1-1 phone call recordings and videos from the cineplex were presented as evidence, information that up until then had not been released. Holmes' defense team maintained that he is mentally ill.[77] On that same day, it is reported that investigators seized four prescription bottles and immunization records from his apartment when it was searched in July 2012. It was not revealed what the prescriptions were or what they were for. The judge ultimately ruled in October that prosecutors could keep the items.[78]

On January 10, 2013, a judge ruled that evidence is sufficient for Holmes to face trial on all counts with which he has been charged.[79] His plea hearing was delayed until March 2013.[80]

On March 27, 2013, Holmes's attorneys said he would be willing to plead guilty to avoid the death penalty.[81] On March 28, prosecutors said they are not ready to accept Holmes's offer to plead guilty and avoid the death penalty and also criticized the offer as a ploy.[82][83]

On April 1, 2013, prosecutors announced they will seek the death penalty in a trial to start in February 2014.[84] On May 7, 2013, Holmes's attorneys filed their intent for him to plead not guilty by reason of insanity. He made this change in his plea on May 31.[85][86][87] On May 23, 2013, Holmes's attorneys called the state's insanity-plea rules unconstitutional. The judge has answered those constitutional questions on May 29, 2013.[87] On May 29, 2013, the judge ruled about the constitutionality of the laws for insanity-plea questioned by Holmes's attorneys, concluding that the laws are not in violation of the Constitution.[88] On June 4, 2013, the presiding judge accepted his plea of insanity defense.[5]

On August 5, 2013, Holmes was transferred to the Colorado Mental Health Institute in Pueblo, Colorado.[89] By August 20, 2013, Holmes was no longer detained at Colorado Mental Health Institute;[90] he was transferred back to jail.

The trial, initially scheduled for October 2014, was delayed to December 8.[91][92]


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  91. ^ Ingold, John (February 27, 2014). "Judge sets October trial for James Holmes in Aurora theater shooting". The Denver Post. Retrieved February 28, 2014. 
  92. ^ "Judge sets new Dec. 8 trial date for James Holmes" The Denver Channel, July 22, 2014.

External links

  • Video of Holmes speaking at a science camp
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