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January 12, 2013

Delay in plea by Holmes disturbs victims, families

(Continued)

CENTENNIAL, Colo. —

That prompted a murmur of disbelief among about 40 survivors and family members of the victims in the gallery.

Sylvester granted the delay, saying he wanted to avoid giving the defense any opening to later appeal the case. Immediately after Sylvester adjourned the hearing, Hernandez shouted at Holmes. Deputies took Hernandez aside and Sylvester reconvened the proceedings.

“I’m terribly sorry for your loss and I can only begin to imagine the emotions that are raging,” Sylvester told Hernandez, saying he could watch the proceedings by video if he could not contain himself.

Hernandez apologized and promised to remain silent at future hearings.

Sylvester then addressed other onlookers in the courtroom.

“I really, really do not want to have any outbursts,” he said.

Holmes is charged with 166 felony counts, mostly murder and attempted murder, in the killing of 12 people and injuring of 70 others during a midnight showing of “The Dark Knight Rises” in the Denver suburb of Aurora.

Defense attorneys did not give a reason for requesting the delay in entering a plea, but prosecutors suggested to Sylvester that his lawyers might want time to build an insanity defense.

The case now moves to a new phase dealing less with the bloody details of the shooting and more about what went on inside Holmes’ head. His attorneys have said he has a mental illness, and it is widely expected they will argue he is not guilty by reason of insanity.

“Insanity is what this case is going to turn on,” said Denver criminal defense attorney Dan Recht, who is not involved in the case. “This is not a whodunit.”

Before the shooting, Holmes was seeing a psychiatrist at the University of Colorado, Denver, where he was a first-year neuroscience graduate student. The psychiatrist became alarmed, but Holmes left the graduate program shortly after failing a year-end exam in June. Holmes was apparently never contacted by law enforcement.

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