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Batman killer is officially charged

A former neuroscience student was charged today with 24 counts of murder and 116 counts of attempted murder in the Batman cinema massacre.

Legal analysts expect the case to be dominated by arguments over his sanity.

James Holmes appeared just as dazed as he did in his first court appearance a week ago, but at one point he exchanged a few words with one of his lawyers.

Some victims and family members again watched him in the packed courtroom, and before the hearing some clasped their hands and bowed their heads as if in prayer.

The July 20 attack at a midnight showing of the new Batman movie in a Colorado cinema in the US left 12 people dead and 58 others injured. Holmes faces two counts for each victim - murder with deliberation, and murder with extreme indifference. Both carry a maximum death penalty upon conviction.

A former chief deputy district attorney said a conviction under extreme indifference means that any life sentences would have to be served consecutively, not concurrently.

Holmes also faces one count of possession of explosives. After his arrest outside the cinema, police said they found his apartment was booby-trapped.

Unlike Holmes's first court appearance, the hearing was not televised. At the request of the defence, district chief judge William Sylvester barred video and still cameras, saying expanded coverage could interfere with Holmes's right to a fair trial.

The judge also placed a gagging order on lawyers and law enforcement, sealing the court file and barring the University of Colorado Denver from releasing public records relating to Holmes's year there.

Lawyers argued over a defence motion to find out who leaked information to the media about a package that 24-year-old Holmes allegedly sent to his psychiatrist at the university. Authorities seized the package last Monday after finding it in the postroom of the medical campus where Holmes studied.

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