His hair dyed orange, eyes staring out blankly, alleged Colorado gunman James Holmes made a bizarre first appearance in court on Monday, after a rampage in which he is accused of shooting dead 12 people and wounding 58 others.
The deadly shooting frenzy occurred shortly after midnight at a movie theater in Aurora, Colorado outside Denver, as movie-goers packed the first screening of the latest Batman film, The Dark Knight Rises.
Wearing a maroon prison jumpsuit, the 24-year-old graduate school dropout did not speak as lawyers read out a list of accusations during the short procedural hearing at Arapahoe County District Court in the town of Centennial.
Holmes, a former doctoral candidate in neuroscience, appeared unable to follow proceedings as his head bobbed up and down and he alternated between staring out wild-eyed and closing his eyes shut as if drugged or in a daze.
Holmes gave himself up outside the cinema, still clad in the body armor witnesses described the gunman wearing.
He is expected to face 12 -murder charges, 58 attempted murder charges for those he wounded, and additional charges related to his booby-trapped apartment.
Holmes was ordered to remain in Arapahoe County jail, where he is being held in solitary confinement, with no bail allowed. He is to make a second court appearance next Monday, when he will enter a plea.
Prosecutors expect weeks of consultations with the families of the victims before deciding whether or not to seek the death penalty.
“We will want to get their input before we make any decision on that,” Arapahoe County district attorney Carol Chambers said. “If the death penalty is sought, that is a very long process that impacts their lives for years.”
Only one person has been executed in Colorado since 1976.
The gunman emerged from a fire exit on Friday shortly after the film began and threw two canisters of noxious gas into the auditorium.
After firing one round directly into the air with a pump-action shotgun, he began shooting people at random with a military-style assault rifle, witnesses said.
Authorities said Holmes had painted his hair reddish orange and claimed he was the Joker, Batman’s sworn enemy in the comic book series that inspired the movie.
According to reports and at least one witness, the movie theater gunman might have killed more people had his assault rifle not jammed.
Police said on Sunday they had found Holmes’s computer inside his booby-trapped apartment — rigged to kill anyone who entered — which could provide crucial details about how he planned and executed the attack.
Calls to re-examine US gun laws mounted as it emerged that Holmes bought his four weapons legally, as well as thousands of rounds of ammunition on the Internet.
Over eight weeks he stocked up on 6,300 rounds of ammunition: 3,000 for his .233 semi-automatic AR-15 rifle, another 3,000 for his two Glock pistols, and 300 cartridges for his pump-action shotgun.
New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg late on Monday urged US President Barack Obama and his presumptive Republican rival for the White House and former Massachusetts governor Mitt Romney to make the bid to clamp down on the rampant proliferation of firearms a talking point of their respective campaigns.
“The first thing is, do they have an obligation to say something about guns. Since 48,000 people will be murdered with guns in the next four-year presidential term, I would argue it’s a substantial problem and that they have an obligation to tell the public before the public goes to the voting booth what they will do,” Bloomberg told CNN.