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Victims attend hearing for Colorado shooting suspect James Holmes

July 30, 2012|By Molly Hennessy-Fiske and Louis Sahagun | This post has been corrected. See the note below for details.
  • Rita Paulina who was wounded during the shooting at the screening of The Dark Knight rises arrives in a wheelchair with her family at the Arapahoe County Courthouse for suspect James Holmes' arraignment hearing in Centennial, Colorado.
Rita Paulina who was wounded during the shooting at the screening of The… (Joe Raedle / Getty Images )

CENTENNIAL, Colo. -- Victims of the Aurora movie-theater shooting-- one in a wheelchair -- and many of their relatives came to the Arapahoe County Courthouse on Monday morning as the prosecution and defense teams prepared to hear the charges against suspect James E. Holmes.

Holmes has been in custody since the July 20 shooting that left 12 dead and 58 injured in the shooting in the Denver suburb. He is expected to face a range of charges including first-degree murder.

Relatives of the youngest shooting victim killed, 6-year-old Veronica Moser-Sullivan, were among the first in line for one of 35 courtroom seats reserved for victims and their family members. The relatives entered the courtroom first.

Mary Hansen of Denver, an aunt of Veronica's mother, said the family members came to support each other, including Veronica's father, Ian Sullivan, who Hansen said "is just broken up."

They also came to see the accused shooter, Hansen said, “to have some sense of who he is, like a character study almost, to put a name and face together.”

Judy Woodard, a Moser family friend from Palm Springs, said they were grateful to be able to see the accused.

“So many times when something like this happens, the person ends up killing themselves, like Columbine,” she said.

Some of those wounded in the shooting showed up for the hearing, including Rita Paulina, 45, who was brought into court in a wheelchair, still wearing hospital bracelets and one of her legs wrapped in gauze. Her husband, Anggiat Mora, 47, said they went to see “The Dark Knight Rises,” the Batman movie at which the shooting broke out, with their 14 year-old son and came to Monday's hearing to “continue what happened at last week's” hearing.

Annie Dalton of Aurora, the aunt of shooting victim Ashley Moser, brought her teenage daughter to the hearing. She said Moser, who suffered a miscarriage this weekend, was "doing better." She looked weary as she headed into the courthouse, saying she was unsure why she came.

"I don't know. You're in so much pain, you're just looking for answer," Dalton said.

Don Lader, 27, was also at the theater that night and came to the hearing in a Batman T-shirt, saying he has watched the movie twice since the shooting. He was defiant and said he was confident that justice would be served.

“We get to be on the other side now, on the attack. He's [Holmes] a coward,” said Lader, who's scheduled to start studies in January at Thomas Jefferson Law School in San Diego.

Lader said he knew one of the victims killed in the shooting, John Larimer, and that he feels a duty to observe the hearing on behalf of him and other victims.

“They wouldn't want us to back down,” he said. “The community is going to come together and due process is going to be served.”

He declined to comment about whether he wants Holmes to receive the death penalty, but said he would not be surprised by an insanity defense.

“I almost expect it. I expect the defense team to do everything in their power. That's one of the things that makes this country great,” he said.

Amber Harris, 32, a cocktail waitress who was also at the theater that night, met Lader there and came to the hearing with him on Monday. She said she also knew one of those killed, Alex Sullivan, and that she believed justice would be served -- if not in court, then in life.

“Only God can be the final judge,” she said.

Holmes, 24, was arrested early July 20 just outside the Century 16 theater's emergency exit. A gunman had fired weapons, including an AR-15 semiautomatic rifle, into a crowded midnight premiere of the latest Batman movie.

Dist. Atty. Carol Chambers is expected to seek the death penalty against Holmes, whose apartment allegedly contained booby traps, including trip wires, 30 improvised grenades and gasoline, along with Batman posters.

Holmes’ public defenders could pursue an insanity defense on his behalf. He was seeing psychiatrist Lynne Fenton, 51, director of student mental-health services at the University of Colorado Anschutz Medical Campus and a specialist in schizophrenia and bipolar disorders.

[For the Record, 1:55 p.m. July 30: A previous version of this post misstated the ages of Don Lader and Amber Harris. Lader is 27 and Harris is 32.]

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