Judge grants a request from James Holmes' defense team to postpone the arraignment of the suspected Aurora theater gunman until March 12. NBC's Leanne Gregg reports.
Families of Aurora massacre victims erupted in anger Friday when a judge postponed the arraignment of suspect James Holmes — with one yelling out, "Rot in hell, Holmes!"
At least four relatives or survivors stalked out when Holmes was granted two more months to decide how to plead to charges he murdered 12 people and wounded dozens during a shooting rampage at a Batman movie last summer.
Others cried in the courtroom or cursed in the corridor outside.
Steve Hernandez, father of murder victim Rebecca Wingo, vented his fury with the "rot in hell" outburst as the case was adjourned — and was gently admonished by the judge.
"I am terribly sorry for your loss. I can only begin to imagine the emotions that are raging," Chief Judge William Sylvester said as he repeated the decorum order that barred any outburst. Hernandez apologized and promised not to disrupt future proceedings.
It’s been almost six months since Holmes was arrested outside the Century 16 multiplex, and relatives are anxious for the case to move along.
They were hopeful that might happen when Chief Judge William Sylvester ruled late Thursday that prosecutors have enough evidence to put Holmes, 25, on trial and scheduled the arraignment for Friday.
But the defense said Holmes wasn't ready to enter a plea and convinced the court to postpone the arraignment until March 12 – over the objections of prosecutors, who said 84 victims or their loved ones opposed a delay.
Sylvester said that with more than 30,000 pages of documents and 220 DVDs filed in the case, both sides need more time to prepare and that forcing Holmes to enter a plea now could create grounds for an appeal.
Steve Hernandez, right, father of slain Aurora victim Rebecca Wingo, arrives for a hearing for James Holmes. Hernandez later shouted, "Rot in hell, Holmes" and was admonished by the judge.
The grad-school dropout's lawyers are widely expected to mount an insanity defense and made several pointed references to their client's mental health during a preliminary hearing this week.
If Holmes enters a plea of not guilty by reason of insanity, he will likely be transferred to a state psychiatric facility, where doctors must evaluate him and issue a report before a trial date is set, legal experts say.
Scott Robinson, a Colorado defense lawyer who closely follows the case, said Holmes’ team could use the two-month delay to have their own mental-health experts evaluate him and help them prepare for the court-ordered exams.
Ed Andrieski / AP
Spectators arrive for a court proceeding for Aurora theater shooting suspect James Holmes on Friday. The judge granted a defense motion to delay the arraignment of Holmes until March 12, provoking anger from victims' relatives.
Many in the victims' camp are adamant in their belief that Holmes is not legally insane. They were particularly struck by new evidence at the hearing that suggested his planning may have begun two months before the July 20 slaughter.
Prosecutors revealed how he amassed an arsenal of weapons, booby-trapped his apartment and took photos of the Century 21 theater well before the ambush.
"He’s not insane. He's evil and there’s a difference," said Theresa Hoover, whose 18-year-old son, A.J. Boik, was killed.
Once Holmes enters a plea, the clock starts running on prosecutors, who have 63 days to decide whether they will seek the death penalty – which would drag out the case even longer.
Sam Soudani, whose 23-year-old daughter was gravely wounded at the theater, said he’s willing to wait if it means Holmes winds up on death row.
“The law has to take its course, and unfortunately, it will take a long time,” Soudani said. “I hate to say it, but he has his rights.”