On July 20, 2012, a mass shooting transpired inside of the Century 16 Theater in Aurora, Colorado, at approximately 12:30 a. m. during the midnight movie premier of The Dark Knight Rises. The defendant, James Eagan Holmes, initially entered auditorium 9 with a pre-purchased ticket as part of the crowd. Once the movie started, Holmes departed through an un-locked emergency exit door to the back of the movie theater complex; Holmes slightly propped open the emergency exit door as he exited.
Holmes then donned full SWAT gear and re-entered auditorium 9. Holmes tossed two-gas canisters into the packed movie theater before he began shooting into the crowd at approximately 12:38 a. m. ; killing 12 people and injuring 70 others. The first Aurora Police Officer, Officer Sweeney, arrived within a minute and a half of the initial call received by 911 at 12:39 a. m. A total of 25-police officers initially responded to the Century 16 Aurora Theater; eventually more than 200-police officers from the Denver metro-area responded.
Holmes was detained at 12:45 a. m. in the back parking lot of the theater, calmly standing by the driver’s side door of his white Hyundai taking off his gloves (Cross, & Pruitt, 2013). Magnitude of the Incident On July 30, 2013 prosecutors filed formal charges against Holmes. The charges included 24-counts of first degree murder, and 140-counts of attempted murder. In common practice, two- charges were filed for each deceased victim in order to increase the opportunity for the prosecutors to obtain a conviction (Bryson, 2013).
Specifically, Holmes is charged with 12-counts of murder in first degree, after deliberation, under C. R. S. § 18-3-102(1)(a); 12-counts of murder in the first degree, with extreme indifference, under C. R. S. § 18-3-102(1)(d); 70-counts of criminal attempt to commit murder in the first degree, after deliberation,, under C. R. S. §§ 18-2-10 and 18-3-102(1)(a); 70- counts of criminal attempt to commit murder in the first degree, with extreme indifference, under C. R. S. § 18-2-101 and 18-3-102(1)(d); one count of possession of an explosive or incendiary device under C. R. S. § 18-12-109(2); as well as one sentence enhancer charge for a crime of violence under C. R. S. § 18-1. 3-406(2)(a)(I)(a) (Holmes v. Colorado, 2013). Holmes’ attorneys have acknowledged that he was the sole gunman. However, Holmes’ attorneys claim that Holmes was in the midst of a psychotic episode. Holmes entered a plea of not guilty by reason of insanity on June 4, 2013 (Katz, 2013). Participants
The main parties include: The defendant James Eagan Holmes; The Aurora Police Department (APD); The Arapahoe County District Attorney’s Office (Karen Pearson, Rich Orman, Dan Zook, Jacob Edson, and 18th Judicial District Attorney George Brauchler; The Colorado State Public Defender’s Office (Daniel King, Tamara Brady, Kristen Nelson, and Colorado State Public Defender Douglas Wilson); The 18th Judicial District Court Chief Judge Carlos A. Samour, Jr. (Holmes v. Colorado, 2013). Miranda and the Public Safety Exception
On October 15, 2013 an evidentiary hearing was held in order to hear arguments regarding the potential suppressing, or allowing, of Holmes’ alleged statements to APD officers during his arrest in the early morning hours of July 20, 2012 outside the Century 16 Theater in Aurora, Colorado. Holmes attorneys contended that the statements Holmes made to APD officers should be suppressed insofar as the statements were acquired in violation of Miranda v. Arizona, 384 U. S. 436, 86 S. Ct. 1602, 16 L. Ed. d 694 (1996). The Prosecution argued that Holmes statements were admissible under the public safety exception to the Miranda rule established in New York v. Quarles, 467 U. S. 649, 104 S. Ct. 2626, 81 L. Ed. 2d 550 (1984). The following witnesses testified: Officer Jason Sweeney, Officer Aaron Blue, Officer Justin Grizzle, Officer Jason Oviatt, and Sergeant Stephen Redfearn (Holmes v. Colorado, 2013). October 15, 2013 Aurora Police Department Decision Making Testimony Regarding Holmes Arrest
Officer Sweeney was the first APD officer to arrive on scene a minute and a half after receiving the call for service at the Century 16 Theater; he drove to the rear of the theater and parked on the southeast corner. According to Officer Sweeney, he immediately began to make his way to the northeast side of the building, were he meet Officer Oviatt. Officers Sweeney and Oviatt observed numerous individuals with obvious gunshot wounds, and several fresh blood trails; they followed the trail of blood in order to attempt to halt the shooting and gain entry to the theater (D-124: Order Regarding Motion, 2013).
Simultaneously, Officer Blue responded to the front of the Century 16 Theater. As Officer Blue entered the lobby he observed dozens of people fleeing. As Officer Blue approached auditorium 9, he smelled tear gas; he radioed all officers to advise them of apparent tear gas in auditorium 9 (D-124: Order Regarding Motion, 2013). At the same time, Officers Sweeny and Oviatt persisted in their advance on the south back side of the theater; they witnessed what they believed was a fellow police officer standing beside the open driver’s side door of a white car parked in the rear of the theater near an emergency exit door.
According to Officers Sweeny and Oviatt no others vehicles were parked in the immediate area. The individual was dressed in full SWAT gear, including a ballistic helmet and a gas mask. Officer Sweeney observed that the individual’s gas mask was not consistent with APD issued gas masks. Furthermore, Officers Sweeny and Oviatt observed that the individual was simply standing around calmly in contrast to all the other police officers at the scene who were attempting to gain entry to the building, or attending to the injured.
Instantaneously yet autonomously, Officers Sweeny and Oviatt determined the individual was a suspect (D-124: Order Regarding Motion, 2013). At gunpoint, Officers Sweeney and Oviatt approached the suspect, and ordered the individual to put his hands up; the suspect complied. As Officer Sweeney circled the suspect’s vehicle looking for additional suspects he observed a rifle case in the back seat of the car, he immediately alerted Officer Oviatt to the presence of a rifle case in the suspect’s vehicle. As such, Officers Sweeney and Oviatt ordered the suspect to face down on the ground.
Officer Oviatt performed a superficial search of the suspect, placed him under arrest, and put him in handcuffs. Nevertheless, both officers were concerned about the on-going potential for additional gunman. The Officers’ had received training teaching them if there is one gunman, there may be two – look for two. Moreover, the vast amount of gunshot wound victims still exiting the theater less than ten feet away from the officers gave them concern regarding the potential for additional gunmen (D-124: Order Regarding Motion, 2013).
In order to obtain more information, Officer Oviatt removed the suspect’s gas mask and helmet, and asked, “If anybody else was with him. ” The suspect responded, “No, it is just me. ” Officer Oviatt testified that he utilized a conversational, yet admittedly excited, tone to question to suspect, and reported that neither officer had their firearm drawn at the time of his questioning of the suspect. At that time Officer Blue arrived, and the officers subsequently performed another pat-down search in order to locate any items that may pose a threat; multiple knives, a handgun magazine, as well as a wallet were recovered.
Officers Blue and Oviatt placed the suspect in a patrol car, and stayed by the suspect’s side while other officers attended to victims still exiting the theater. Officer Blue opened the suspect’s wallet and observed that the description on the suspect’s driver’s license matched the suspect’s general physical appearance (D-124: Order Regarding Motion, 2013). At this junction, Officer Grizzle and Sergeant Redfearn arrived at the back of the theater.
Upon conferral, all five officers agreed they were extremely concerned for the public’s safety insofar as the pat-down search of their sole suspect had failed to yield any weapons, and there was still numerous apparent gunshot wound victims exiting the theater. Additionally, Officer Blue and was concerned with the fact that the suspect was fidgeting around in the patrol car, and therefore possibly attempting to, “Get at something. ” As such, Officer Blue asked the suspect, “If he had any weapons on him. The suspect responded, “He had four guns,” and added that he, “Did not have any bombs , but he had improvised explosive devices at his house” that would not “Go off unless set them off. ” Officer Blue testified that he utilized a conversational, yet admittedly excited, tone to question to suspect, and reported that none of the officer had their firearm drawn when he questioned the suspect. Officer Blue then asked if the suspects address on his driver’s license was correct.
The suspect responded, “Yes” (D-124: Order Regarding Motion, 2013). Key Issue Whether the Officers were Justified in Not Affording the Defendant the Procedural Safeguards Required by the Miranda rule. Holmes attorneys contended that the statements the defendant made to APD officers at the time of his arrest at the Century 16 Aurora Theater should be suppressed, insofar as the statements were acquired in violation of Miranda v. Arizona, 384 U. S. 436, 86 S. Ct. 1602, 16 L. Ed. 2d 694 (1996).
Conversely, the prosecution argued that Holmes’ initial statements to APD officers, before his Miranda rights were afforded to him, were admissible under the public safety exception to the Miranda rule established in New York v. Quarles, 467 U. S. 649, 104 S. Ct. 2626, 81 L. Ed. 2d 550 (1984) ) (Holmes v. Colorado, 2013). Court Order Regarding Motion to Suppress Mr. Holmes’ July 20, 2013 Alleged Statements to Officers Sweeney, Oviatt, and Blue (D-124) On November 1, 2013, Judge Carlos A. Samour, Jr. uled that Officer Sweeney’s and Blue’s questions put forward to the defendant were warranted by their reasonable necessity to protect the public, themselves, as well as their fellow police officers, from immediate and grave danger. Specially, Judge Carlos A. Samour, Jr. stated, “Had the Miranda warnings deterred the defendant from answering the officer’s questions, the cost have been something more than merely the failure to obtain evidence useful in convicting ” ) (Holmes v. Colorado, 2013).