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Aurora massacre suspect's lawyers try to bar evidence from car, computers

Attorneys for the man accused of killing 12 people at a Colorado movie theater last year asked the judge Wednesday to throw out all evidence — including two pistols and a black ski mask — found in his car just hours after the mass shooting.

James Eagan Holmes' lawyers also asked Colorado District Judge Carlos Samour to toss evidence found on Holmes' computers and computer drives, arguing that they, too, were seized without a proper search warrant.

Holmes, 25, is scheduled to go on trial in February in the July 20, 2012, massacre at the Century 16 theater in Aurora, where 12 people were killed and dozens more were injured at the premiere of "Batman: The Dark Knight rises." He has pleaded not guilty by reason of insanity. Prosecutors are seeking the death penalty.

Investigators with the Arapahoe County sheriff's bomb unit acknowledged at an evidentiary hearing in Centennial that they didn't have a warrant when they searched Holmes' Hyundai Tiburon shortly after the shootings. 

They said they had to search the car before the warrant was obtained because they were concerned it might have bombs inside it.

Bomb squad investigator Craig Clark testified that a robot was used to break two of the windows of the car, which was parked behind the theater. The robot's cameras showed at least three black zipper bags, he said.

"Those bags gave us great concern," Clark said. "We couldn't see inside them."

Arapahoe County Chief Deputy District Attorney Karen Pearson argued that so-called imminent-peril searches are legal without a warrant "to keep officers safe and preserve evidence."

In addition to the weapons and the ski mask, investigators found ammunition and an iPhone, which held photos of Holmes posing with guns while wearing Kevlar armor, Aurora police Det. Tom Sobieski testified.

Those photos were synced to Holmes' computers, which led to the search of his apartment, where investigators seized two desktop computers, a laptop computer, a tablet computer, three thumb drives, a cable modem, a network adapter and a wireless adapter, prosecutors said.

Holmes' lawyers argued that the evidence from the car was inadmissible on its face because it was the product of a warrantless search.

And they contended that the warrant used to search the computers was unconstitutional because investigators didn't limit what they gathered solely to information related to the shootings.

"The warrant is incredibly overbroad," defense attorney Kristen Nelson argued, saying the warrant made "absolutely no effort to limit the language in any way."

Samour didn't rule on the motions at the hearing, one of many scheduled over the next few weeks.


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