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Suspect James Holmes' charges in the Colorado theater shootings include 24 counts of first-degree murder, giving potential jurors two routes to reach a verdict.
Prosecutors on Monday charged Holmes with 12 counts of first-degree murder and 12 counts of first-degree murder with extreme indifference, Reuters reports. Police arrested Holmes after he allegedly opened fire on a movie theater audience in Aurora, Colo., killing 12 and wounding 58 others.
So what is the difference between the two types of first-degree murder charges?
Under Colorado's murder statute, there are six ways to charge a person with first-degree murder. James Holmes' charges involve two of those alternatives, namely:
An "extreme indifference" murder is "a lot easier to prove. You don't have to prove premeditation," one Colorado lawyer told The Denver Post earlier this month in connection with a separate shooting case.
"Literally, that's shooting into a crowd," the lawyer said. "That's classically why this (statute) exists."
In Colorado, first-degree murder can also occur when a victim dies during the commission of a violent felony like arson, robbery, or kidnapping; or when a person deals illegal drugs to a child at school, and the child later dies because of drug use.
If convicted of first-degree murder, a defendant can possibly face the death penalty.
James Holmes' charges also include 116 counts of attempted murder, one count of committing a crime of violence, and one count of possession of explosives, perhaps linked to his booby-trapped apartment, Reuters reports. The hearing was not televised, and Holmes, 24, was not expected to enter a plea Monday.
Meeting with a lawyer can help you understand your options and how to best protect your rights. Visit our attorney directory to find a lawyer near you who can help.