[UPDATE] James Holmes In Court: Aurora Insanity Plea Debated In Legal Community

By IScience Times Staff Reporter on January 3, 2013 11:19 AM EST

Aurora
In the wake of the horrific Newtown massacre, James Holmes - now known as the Aurora shooter - will finally go to court. The question on everyone's minds is: Will he get the death penalty? (Photo: Reuters)

The infamous Aurora shooter James Holmes will be in court on Monday to defend the horrific shooting at a Colorado movie theater in July that killed 12 people and injured 70.

The inexplicable massacre that took place at the midnight showing of the latest Batman flick "The Dark Knight Rises" was the first in a string of vicious gun-related incidents in the last five months. But unlike Adam Lanza, who killed 27 people in Newtown, Conn., Holmes didn't commit suicide after the open fire. As a result, Americans - who have become incensed with what are viewed as insufficient gun-control laws - will finally get a say about what should happen to a suspect who used a gun to commit a senseless crime.

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At the start of next week, state District Judge William B. Sylvester will oversee a hearing to decide if there is sufficient evidence to put Holmes on trial. It's highly unlikely there won't be sufficient evidence, according to legal experts familiar with the case, because according to thousands of reports - and hundreds of eyewitnesses - Holmes opened fire in a very public place. But defense attorneys who have been following the case expect Holmes' defense team to ask for a plea deal.

Holmes is charged with multiple counts of first-degree murder and attempted murder. Though the judge imposed a gag order on Holmes' attorneys and various investigators, it is known that the defense team is claiming Holmes is mentally disturbed. Yet it's unclear whether an insanity plea could successfully prevent a death-penalty ruling.

Demands to increase gun-control regulation became deafening recently,with tens of thousands of U.S. citizens flocking to the White House's website to sign petitions. "Today IS the day," began a petition submitted by Chris C. of Joshua Tree, Calif., through the White House's "We the People" platform.

"Immediately address the issue of gun control through the introduction of legislation in Congress, read another, which almost immediately gained the 25,000 signatures necessary for a White House response.

Following the July 20 shooting, families of the victims desperately wanted to understand what would drive Holmes, 24, to open fire in what seemed like such a random manner. As a consequence, Colorado residents following the case asked repeatedly if there were warning signs before the fateful day.

In September, countless legal documents were made public by the judge, offering new insights into the thoughts and feelings of James Holmes before the killing. Prosecutors said in a court filing that Holmes confessed to a classmate in March that he was thinking of killing people, which would seem to indicate that the massacre was pre-meditated. Yet a graduate school classmate told The New York Times that Holmes had sent her text messages alluding to the fact that he had a mental illness called dysphoric mania, a form of bipolar disorder. If Holmes' defense team could prove conclusively that their client was suffering from a bipolar disorder, the death penalty could be less likely.

Accounts from Holmes' classmates and professors at the University of Colorado also indicate that he threatened a professor on June 10 after failing a final exam. The day after the school psychiatrist reported the threat to a campus security committee.

Like the massacre in Newtown, the shooting created a sense of chaos at the time, and post-traumatic-stress disorder after. "I think this is a lot like Columbine," Jennifer Evans, a neighbor of Holmes told The New York Times. "This is crazy."

Waiting for a trial, the families of victims have not yet moved on. They are hoping that a life sentence or death penalty will give them closure, if nothing else. Sandy and Lonnie Phillips, the mother and stepfather of Jessica Ghawi, one of the 12 people killed, cannot imagine ever returning to the Cinemark theater.

"It was a killing field," Sandy Phillips said. "It was a place of carnage and they've not once told us what their plans are for the theater other than that they're reopening it."

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