Holmes Hearing: Officers Considered Blowing Up Apartment
CENTENNIAL, Colo. (AP) – Defense attorneys weren’t able to speak to James Holmes for several hours after his arrest and one testified Thursday that investigators ignored her demand that they not question the Colorado theater shooting suspect about explosives found in his apartment.
Aurora Police Detective Craig Appel testified at a pretrial hearing Thursday that he knew two lawyers wanted to see Holmes.
Appel said he told public defender Daniel King that he would have to wait until Holmes was transferred to another jail.
The other attorney, hired by Holmes’ mother, said she told Appel investigators couldn’t talk to Holmes about explosives found in his apartment. They went ahead and questioned him anyway with no lawyer present.
Holmes had also asked to speak to a lawyer. Appel said it wasn’t until at least 12 hours after his arrest that Holmes was able to.
His testimony came during a day of dramatic and often testy exchanges between lawyers and witnesses as the defense sought to bar trial testimony about statements Holmes made to police. Both sides are battling over what evidence can be admitted during Holmes’ trial in an attempt to build up or tear down the case that he was insane.
Prosecutors presented testimony aimed at showing how urgent it was for authorities to question Holmes about his booby-trapped apartment.
Aurora police Lt. Thomas Wilkes said the explosives were so dangerous that authorities considered detonating them and blowing up the whole building, and possibly threatening several nearby buildings, rather than send a technician in.
Court records show Holmes was questioned for 38 minutes at the jail about the explosives but specific details of what was discussed haven’t been released.
FBI agent Garrett Gumbinner, who was among the investigators questioning Holmes, said they asked him about the materials he used and the ignition systems.
“Most of the bomb technicians on the scene and myself had never seen anything like it. Based on the fact that it had three fusing devices, it was very sophisticated,” he said.
The system included a pyrotechnics firing box that would have been triggered by the remote control unit of a toy car left along with a boom box set to play loud music.
On Wednesday, lawyers sparred over evidence seized from Holmes’ car and computers. That included signs that one computer was allegedly used for an Internet search on the words “rational insanity” and photos on his cellphone of himself holding firearms.
“The issue is, was he sane or insane at the time,” said Karen Steinhauser, a former prosecutor now in private practice.
Holmes pleaded not guilty by reason of insanity to more than 160 counts of murder and attempted murder. His attorneys have acknowledged he was the shooter in the massacre, which killed 12 people and wounded 70 others at a suburban Denver movie theater, but they say he was in the midst of a psychotic episode at the time.
Prosecutors are seeking the death penalty, and to have Holmes executed Colorado law requires that they first convince the jury that Holmes was legally sane — that he knew the shootings were wrong.
The defense has been fighting to exclude any evidence that prosecutors might use to make that point, such as researching definitions of insanity or planning the attack.
Holmes’ lawyers argued the evidence from his car should be thrown out because police didn’t get a warrant before searching it. They said evidence from the computers should be tossed because a search warrant was overbroad.
Prosecutors said police had no time to seek a warrant to search the car because they feared it might contain explosives or hazardous material that threatened officers and the public. They introduced a photo showing the location of Holmes’ car outside the Aurora theater and called law-enforcement officers to testify to the potential threat.
Holmes’ trial is scheduled to start in February.
By DAN ELLIOTT, Associated Press
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