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Jurors see video of theater shooter scratching at table, playing with staples after arrest

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CENTENNIAL, Colorado — As the chaos of a shooting at a packed movie theater continued to unfold outside, James Holmes sat in a sterile police interview room, toying with staples, staring at walls and playing with paper bags put on his hands to preserve gunshot residue.

Holmes' defense attorneys on Wednesday began showing a four-hour video of his bizarre, post-shooting behavior as they try to convince jurors he was legally insane when he killed 12 people and injured 70 more during a midnight movie premiere.

They say the video of Holmes in a ripped T-shirt and boxers with fiery orange hair is proof he was in the grips of a psychotic episode during the July 20, 2012, attack.

The video opens with Holmes fiddling with items on a table and picking at an electrical socket with a staple before a police officer tells him to stop. It's about 5 a.m., five hours after he opened fire on the theater.

The footage is mostly silent except for the eerie crackle of police radios still dispatching officers to the theater and a bomb squad to Holmes' apartment, which he had rigged into an explosive booby trap. At one point, while Holmes sits motionless, the dispatchers can be heard sending officers to a mandatory debriefing with a police psychologist.

But if Holmes can hear the faint noise, he seems oblivious. He inquires about the bags officers placed over his hands to preserve gunshot residue.

"What do you think it's for?" an officer asks him.

"Popcorn," he replies, flatly.

He then plays with the paper bags on his hands as if they were puppets, although prosecutors have suggested that he was tapping out the drum beat of the techno music he had been listening to when he took aim at moviegoers.

Defense attorneys have spent nearly a week calling deputies, jail nurses and doctors who have observed Holmes' odd behavior months and weeks after the shooting, but the video was the most substantial piece of evidence they have shown that gives insight into his demeanor immediately following the attack.

Prosecutors, who say he was sane and are seeking the death penalty, have focused on other elements of the footage, such as Holmes' ability to easily and accurately answer an officer's questions about his age and address, height and weight.

Soon after the officer leaves the room, Holmes appears to lean his head against a wall and fall asleep.

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