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Judge orders arraignment for Colorado theater shooting suspect over lawyers' plea for delay

Bill Robles / AP

This courtroom sketch shows James Holmes being escorted by a deputy as he arrives at preliminary hearing in district court in Centennial, Colo., on Monday.

James Holmes, accused of killing 12 people and wounding 70 others at a Colorado movie theater last year, is scheduled to be arraigned Friday after a judge ruled that there was enough evidence to take him to trial.

Earlier in the day, lawyers for Holmes, 25, a former graduate student at the University of Colorado-Denver, asked Arapahoe County Chief District Judge William Sylvester to delay an arraignment, saying Holmes wasn't ready to enter a plea. They gave no reason.

In an order filed late Thursday, Sylvester said he was convinced that prosecutors had established probable cause and ordered that a status hearing scheduled for Friday be converted to a formal arraignment. He ordered that Holmes continue to be held without bond on 166 felony counts, most of them murder and attempted murder.

The murder charges could carry the death penalty. Once Holmes is arraigned, prosecutors will have roughly two months to declare any intention to seek a capital sentence.

Sylvester noted the defense request and told prosecutors to come to court prepared to respond to what he said was a likely motion for a delay, however.

Scott Robinson, a prominent criminal defense attorney in Denver, said that was no surprise.

"It's not unusual for defense lawyers to want more time to prepare," Robinson said. "After all, the prosecution got a huge head start in the case."

The ruling came after three days during which prosecutors laid out some of their evidence against Holmes, who they said meticulously collected weapons and ammunition over many weeks before he went to the Century 16 Theater in Aurora on July 20 and opened fire on a sold-out audience for the premiere of the movie "Batman: The Dark Knight Rises."

They also described how they believe Holmes fiendishly booby-trapped his apartment, turning it into a bomb-filled death-trap for law enforcement.

The hearing closed Wednesday with prosecutors' showing Sylvester a photo, recovered from his cellphone, of Holmes smiling into the camera while gripping a semiautomatic handgun just six hours before the rampage.

"He didn't care who he killed or how many he killed, because he wanted to kill all of them," Arapahoe County Chief Deputy District Attorney Karen Pearson said.

Holmes' attorneys offered little response, calling no witnesses of their own and cross-examining only a handful of the prosecution's witnesses. Holmes sat impassively during the three-day hearing, the dyed red hair he sported in pre-slaughter photos replaced by messy brown hair and a beard.

Previous stories on the Holmes hearing