Batman massacre suspect could be declared insane

Gunman James Holmes may not have to face trial; victims' families hurt by cinema re-opening

LAST UPDATED AT 13:47 ON Mon 7 Jan 2013

BATMAN massacre suspect James Holmes returns to court this week for a hearing to determine whether he is mentally fit to stand trial for the murder of 12 people last July.

Holmes is charged with killing 12 people and injuring 70 in a shooting spree during a screening of the Batman film The Dark Knight Rises in the Denver suburb of Aurora.

A preliminary hearing starting today is expected to last a week, at which point the judge will determine whether to send the case to trial in a criminal court.

Holmes could get the death penalty or life in prison without parole if he goes to trial and is convicted of murder. However, The Times suggests that the hearing could be the closest the 25-year-old comes to an actual trial, claiming District Judge William Sylvester may rule Holmes unfit on the grounds of "insanity".

Survivors and family members are expected at the preliminary hearing in the Arapahoe County courthouse, together with scores of spectators and reporters.

The Aurora hearing opens just two days after another fatal shooting spree in the same town. A gunman killed three people after taking them hostage in a house in Aurora. As The Guardian reports, the gunman was shot dead by officers at the end of a five-hour siege. All the victims are believed to have been related to the killer.

Meanwhile the relatives of the victims of the July massacre have reacted angrily to an invitation to a film screening to commemorate the re-opening of the Aurora cinema.

Film chain Cinemark send out invitations two days after Christmas, asking relatives of the dead to "reserve tickets now". In an open letter published in the Denver Post, the families accused the company of "awful timing" and referred to the "disgusting" and "offensive" offer. The letter is signed by ‘The Families of the Aurora Cinemark Theatre Massacre'. · 

For further concise, balanced comment and analysis on the week's news, try The Week magazine. Subscribe today and get 6 issues completely free.