CENTENNIAL, Colo. — 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 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.”
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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 demeanor, 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.
“You shot a 6-year-old. Come on give me a break. You’re dressed in full combat gear, immediately surrender. Come on. Pick on some guys who know how to use guns,” Teves said.
The hearing was the first confirmation that Holmes’ hair was colored. 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 colored hair.
It could not immediately be confirmed if he told officers that he was Batman’s enemy, however.
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 armor and was armed with an assault rifle, a shotgun and handguns during the attack, was arrested shortly afterward. He is refusing to cooperate, 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.
Chambers said a decision will be made in consultation with the victims’ families.
David Sanchez, who waited outside the courthouse during Holmes’ hearing, said his pregnant daughter escaped uninjured but her husband was shot in the head and was in critical condition. His daughter was scheduled to deliver her baby on Monday.
“When it’s your own daughter and she escaped death by mere seconds, I want to say it makes you angry,” Sanchez said. He said his daughter, 21-year-old Katie Medley, and her husband, Caleb, 23, had been waiting for a year to watch the movie.