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January 17th, 2013
09:21 AM ET

Aurora shooting victim family member boycotts theater opening, argues theater using shooting as momentum for opening

Six months after the massacre in Aurora, the Century 16 movie theater where 12 people were killed and nearly 60 wounded is scheduled to roll its screens again. The Colorado theater will reopen to the public tommorrow, remodeled and renamed.

The newly renovated theater was opened this week for private visits from family members. A formal reopening dedicated to the remembrance of the tragedy will be held tonight. Aurora's mayor and Colorado's governor are expected to speak. But many families have decided not to attend tonight. Jessica Watts, whose cousin Jonathan Blunk was a victim of the shooting at Aurora, is one those boycotting the reopening. She joins us live from Denver this morning.

Watts says she has no interest in attending the theater’s reopening because she feels families are “being used as pawns” and as “momentum for their public ticket sales.” However, some families did visit the theater and said it was therapeutic for them. Watts believes “it depends on the healing process” whether some find it helpful or not. “All of us are at different stages of healing and grief and…different levels of trauma,” she says. “I know of a few family members that are going back, but I choose not to, just because I would rather focus my energy on…how we can make a change…in policies, kind of according to what President Obama wanted to do yesterday.”

The president proposed measures to curb gun violence yesterday, but it looks unlikely that the Senate will pass an assault weapons ban. Still, Watts feels hopeful. “Our pleas are being heard,” she says.

January 14th, 2013
07:55 AM ET

Newtown one month later: Shooting survivors offer support to victims

This morning Vice President Biden will meet with members of the House Of Representatives as part of the task force he's heading up on reducing gun violence. The task force is expected to make its recommendations Tuesday.

Meanwhile, today marks one month since the Sandy Hook Elementary shooting. A group of Newtown residents called "Sandy Hook Promise" will mark the anniversary by holding a news conference today. They plan to unveil a national grass-roots initiative to reduce gun violence.

The group will be joined by families of victims and survivors of other shootings. Among them is Stephen Barton, a survivor of last summer's Aurora movie theater shooting. He was shot in the face, neck and chest before escaping. Stephen now works as an outreach and policy associate for Mayors Against Illegal Guns. He also grew up about ten minutes from Newtown. And Lori Haas will also be there. Her daughter Emily was shot twice during the 2007 Virginia Tech mass shooting. Luckily she survived. Lori is now the Virginia organizer for the Coalition to Stop Gun Violence.

As “Early Start” looks back at the Sandy Hook tragedy, we speak to Stephen and Lori, who are working to enact change moving forward. Both of them join us live from Newtown, Connecticut.

January 10th, 2013
07:12 AM ET

James Holmes took photos of Aurora theater month ahead of massacre; CNN's Ed Lavandera reports details from prelim hearing

The preliminary hearing presenting evidence against James Holmes for the “Dark Knight” shooting is over. A judge will decide tomorrow if the case goes to trial. CNN’s Ed Lavandera has been reporting on the hearing from Centennial, Colorado and tells us more about the chilling details it has uncovered to the public.

“Prosecutors have laid out a detailed time line of how Holmes planned the Aurora theater massacre,” he says. “Investigators say James Holmes started casing the Century 16 movie theatre about three weeks before the shooting. They say he came here on three different occasions and snapped off a series of pictures they found on his iPhone that showed various hallway and doors, even the exit area of theatre nine.” According to prosecutors, Holmes also spent weeks stockpiling weapons and rigging an explosive system in his apartment timed to detonate just before he started the killing spree.

“Holmes's deviant and deadly plan feels more like the deranged creation of a fictional villain in a Batman movie,” Lavandera says. “But all these disturbing details we've learned in the past 3 days still don't explain why James Holmes wanted to kill so many people.”

January 8th, 2013
07:05 AM ET

Criminal Defense Attorney Joey Jackson discusses the latest in Aurora massacre hearing

CNN is reporting new details about the immediate aftermath of the Aurora theater shooting this morning as the preliminary hearing of suspect James Holmes continues today. A police officer testified that Holmes “seemed very detached from it all.” Other officers described the chaos and confusion at the scene as they tried to help victims. More witnesses will take the stand today. The hearing will ultimately determine whether there is probable cause for a trial. Criminal Defense Attorney Joey Jackson comes to “Early Start” this morning to discuss the latest developments.

Prosecutors are presenting their evidence against Holmes in this preliminary hearing. Jackson explains that, while the jury is watching, “the judge is examining is all of the evidence to determine whether or not that evidence meets the standard of having him legally held and, of course, having the trial move forward.” He thinks the judge will make that determination and move forward to that trial. “And that's when there will be fireworks.”

Jackson also offers his idea of whether there will be a plea deal. "I think with this mounting evidence,” he says, “it would be incumbent upon the defense team to contemplate a plea deal, particularly if they're looking to save his life which might be something that would entice them to say ‘I’m guilty.’”

January 7th, 2013
07:49 AM ET

Aurora shooting suspect James Holmes hearing; Criminal Defense Attorney Anne Bremner discusses case

A preliminary hearing of the tragic movie theater massacre in Aurora, Colorado begins today. Prosecutors are set to unveil evidence against James Holmes, the 25-year-old suspect who is charged with killing 12 people and wounding at least 58 others at a midnight showing of the Dark Knight last July. It will be the first time the public will hear details of the shooting as the judge in the case determines whether the evidence presented is sufficient for Holmes to stand trial on more than 150 counts, including murder, attempted murder and weapons charges. Anne Bremner is a criminal defense attorney. She discusses what to expect from the case today on “Early Start” this morning.

“This may be the only hearing where the facts are vetted,” Bremner says. “There may not be a trial if there’s some kind of bargain in the works in the future.” She explains that it will be difficult for victims, but in her experience as a former prosecutor, they want to be present to hear all the details. “There’s gonna be autopsy reports. There’s gonna be video from the within the theater. There’s gonna be first-hand accounts of how he was shooting again and again and again at people. People were dying. That will all be in this hearing.”

January 7th, 2013
05:38 AM ET

Prosecutors set to unveil evidence against Aurora massacre suspect; CNN's Casey Wian reports

James Holmes, the suspect in the tragic movie theater massacre in Aurora, Colorado, will be in court for a key preliminary hearing today. The 25-year-old is charged with killing 12 people and wounding dozens more. Prosecutors will begin presenting evidence and are expected to call scores of witnesses before Arapahoe County District Judge William Sylvester. He’ll determine whether the evidence is sufficient for Holmes to stand trial on more than 150 counts, including murder, attempted murder and weapons charges. The weapons included explosives allegedly used to booby-trap Holmes's apartment.

Holmes’s attorneys are expected to present a diminished mental capacity defense in the preliminary hearing that is expected to last several days. Up until now, the judge had ordered a sweeping gag order, so this will be first time the public will hear details of what went on inside the theater during the shooting rampage back in July. CNN's Casey Wian is live in Centennial, Colorado this morning with more.