Aurora Theater Shooting Trial: James Holmes Found Guilty

James Holmes was found guilty of multiple counts of first-degree murder in the July 20, 2012, shooting rampage that killed 12 people and injured 70 others in an Aurora, Colo., movie theater during a showing of “The Dark Knight Rises.”

Holmes was found guilty on 12 counts of first degree murder after deliberation, and another 12 counts of first degree murder with extreme indifference. He also was found guilty of all 70 counts of attempted murder after deliberation, and all 70 counts of attempted murder with extreme indifference.

Holmes stood and did not show visible emotion as he listened to Judge Carlos Samour read through the names of the victims. It appeared that he had his hands in his pockets as Samour took about 60 minutes to read the verdicts in all 165 counts. One of Holmes’ attorneys, stood and leaned with his hands against the defense table at one point as Samour read through the list.

The case now moves to the sentencing phase, scheduled to begin on Wednesday, in which Holmes faces the death penalty or life in prison. The jury remains impaneled.

The jury of nine women and three men deliberated for a day and a half before they informed the court on Thursday afternoon that they had reached a verdict.

Holmes pleaded not guilty by reason of insanity, meaning that much of the trial focused on his mental capacity during the rampage and on his behavior in the months before and afterward.

In closing arguments, King argued that his client could not control his thoughts, actions and perceptions when he walked into the theater that evening. King also pointed to Holmes’ erratic behavior in jail afterward, as well as to statements he gave to a psychiatrist in the months before the shooting that he was having suicidal thoughts. He said Holmes “had been consumed by a psychotic process” that began at least since March of that year, and that he had been suffering from that disease for 10 years.

But George Brauchler, district attorney of Arapahoe County, described the methodical way in which Holmes planned his attack, concealing his activities in ways that indicated that he knew right from wrong. He pointed to the way that Holmes planned his escape, evidence that he was aware that what he was doing would produce a police response, as well as the methodical way he booby trapped his apartment with explosives to cause maximum damage and injuries.

The prosecution also brought 69 of the 70 injured victims to testify, many of whom described the horror of being trapped in the theater, as well as heartbreaking stories of friends and relatives who were killed. They described how Holmes, dressed in gas mask, ballistic helmet and vest and other protective gear as if he were a SWAT team member, set off tear gas and carried out his rampage to inflict massive casualties.

Holmes has been present throughout the trial, wearing a button-down shirt and khakis, as well as eyeglasses.

Holmes’ 165 charges included 24 murder counts for 12 victims (the dual charges were for murder carried out “after deliberation” and with “extreme indifference”). He also was charged with two separate charges of attempted murder for each of the 70 injured victims. Another charge was for possession of an explosive or incendiary device, related to the way he booby trapped his apartment. He also was found guilty of that charge.

The jury’s instructions were that they were to find him not guilty on all 165 charges before they could move on to another part of their jury forms indicating that they found him insane at the time of the shootings.

In the alternative, the case would move on to a death penalty sentencing phase if he were found guilty of at least one count of first degree murder.

Before the jury read the verdict, Samour warned the courtroom gallery against emotional outbursts. There were none.

Outside the courtroom, some of the family members of victims addressed the verdict.

“There’s a weight lifted that I didn’t even know was there,” said Jansen Young, who was in the theater that night with her boyfriend, Jonathan Blunk, one of the victims, according to the Denver Post.

“This should be the last one, folks. We shouldn’t have to do this anymore,” said Tom Sullivan, father of victim Alex Sullivan, on the preponderance of mass shootings.

Dan Gross, president of the Brady Campaign to Prevent Gun Violence, noted that the verdicts came on the same day of the shooting of four Marines at a Navy and Marine Reserve Center in Chattanooga, Tenn.

“This is one of the most significant days in American history when it comes to gun violence,” Gross said in a statement. “The same day a jury handed down its verdict on a man for carrying out mass murder in a Colorado movie theater, another went on a deadly rampage killing four American Marines. If this doesn’t cause policymakers to stop and think about the impact of gun violence in our country, what will?”

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