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At this stage, prosecutors must only meet a "probable cause" standard — much lower than the "beyond a reasonable doubt" standard for a guilty verdict, said Mimi Wesson, a professor of law at the University of Colorado Law School.
Many of the survivors and family members of the dead attended the hearing.
The hearing is the first extensive public disclosure of the evidence against Holmes. Three days after the shooting, District Judge William Sylvester forbade attorneys and investigators from discussing the case publicly, and many court documents have been under seal.
It took this long to get to the preliminary hearing because lawyers have been debating what physical evidence should be made available to one side or the other, whether a psychiatrist who met with Holmes is barred from testimony by doctor-patient privilege, who was responsible for leaks to the media, and other issues.
Police say Holmes, now 25, had stockpiled weapons, ammunition, explosives and body armor. He was a first-year student in a Ph.D. neuroscience program at the University of Colorado, Denver, but he failed a year-end exam and withdrew in June, authorities have said.
The shootings happened six weeks later.
Federal authorities have said Holmes entered the theater with a ticket and is believed to have propped open a door, slipped out to his car and returned with his weapons. Police arrested him outside the theater shortly after the shootings ended.
Holmes’ mental health could be a significant issue — and possibly a contentious one — in the preliminary hearing.
His attorneys have told the judge Holmes is mentally ill, but they have not said whether they plan to employ an insanity defense. He had seen a university psychiatrist, and his lawyers have said he tried to call the psychiatrist nine minutes before the killing began.
Defense lawyers have said they plan to call at least two people, described as "lay witnesses," who could testify about Holmes’ mental health. Prosecutors asked Sylvester to block the witnesses, but he refused.
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