CENTENNIAL, Colo. - Survivors of the Dark Knight Rises shooting rampage joined family members and friends of the victims in the courthouse here on Monday morning to watch James Eagan Holmes be charged with 142 counts, including 24 counts of first-degree murder in connection with the July 20 massacre.
Victims, friends and family were led into the courtroom before the hearing while members of the media were placed in an holding area. No cameras were allowed in the courtroom for Holmes' second appearance in front of District Chief Judge William Sylvester but witnesses said Holmes appeared more subdued, uttering only one word during his appearance when he answered "yes" to agree to waive his right to a preliminary hearing.
Some of those in attendance wore Batman T-shirts, an overt reference to the Christopher Nolan-directed film that was playing when the massacre took place at the Century 16 multiplex in nearby Aurora.
Don Lader, 32, was with his wife in theater 9, row 8, about 15 yards from the exit when Holmes allegedly walked into the theater spraying gun fire. He wore a Batman shirt emblazoned with the words "A Fire Will Rise," a sentiment matching comments he made to the media that he would not allow fear to govern his actions in the aftermath of the shooting.
"He attacked us out of cowardice but we will attack back in strength," said Lader, who, along with his wife, escaped with minor scrapes. Lader said he has gone back to see the Warner Bros.-released Batman movie twice -- once with his wife and a second time with the son of Amber Harris, a 27-year-old cocktail waitress who also was at the theater that night and who has since befriended Lader and his wife.
"I made a promise to Amber's son that I would take him if he wanted to go," Lader said. "I'm not gonna lie, it was tough seeing it in the beginning. We kept eyeing the exits. But we needed to go; we needed to know that we still had the power to sit and watch a movie. (Holmes) doesn't have the power anymore."
Lader said he held no ill-will against the movie industry, which has come under fire from some quarters because Holmes allegedly referred to himself as the Joker. "There was evidence that he was a Batman fan, but it didn't have anything to do with it," Lader said.
The charges against Homes include 116 counts of attempted murder, one felony count of possession of an explosive device and one count of a sentence enhancer for a crime of violence. Holmes, 24, faces death penalty for the shooting death of 12 people and injuring another 58. The minimum is life in prison without parole.
A date for the preliminary hearing was set for Nov. 12 and will likely take a week.
Unlike Holmes' first court appearance July 23, Monday's hearing was not televised. At the request of the defense, Judge Sylvester barred video and still cameras from the hearing, saying expanded coverage could interfere with Holmes' right to a fair trial. Media requests to unseal the case file will be heard during a court hearing on Aug. 9.
"When you have a crime of this magnitude, there need is a public interest need of transparency," said media attorney Steven Zansberg. "There is also a recognition of a therapeutic sense of catharsis as the process moves forward."