US jury keeps death op­tion for theater shooter


Jurors on Mon­day moved one step closer to­ward sen­tenc­ing James Holmes to death for his Colorado movie theater at­tack, tak­ing less than three hours to re­ject ar­gu­ments that the for­mer neu­ro­science stu­dent’s men­tal ill­ness means he should not die.

The de­ci­sion clears the way for one last at­tempt from both sides to sway the jury, with grip­ping tes­ti­mony from vic­tims about their suf­fer­ing and more ap­peals for mercy for the man con­victed of mur­der­ing 12 peo­ple and try­ing to kill 70 more dur­ing the 2012 as­sault at a Bat­man movie.

Holmes, his re­ac­tions dulled by anti-psy­chotic drugs, stood as or­dered and ap­peared emo­tion­less as Judge Car­los Samour, Jr. read the de­ci­sions.

Robert and Ar­lene Homes held hands, their fin­gers in­ter­laced, and di­rected their eyes at the floor. With each unan­i­mous “yes,” it be­came ever more clear that jurors be­lieve their son’s crimes out­weighed their tes­ti­mony. She be­gan to cry, and her hus­band held out a box of tis­sues.

More tears flowed in the gallery. Rena Medek be­gan silently sob­bing when the judge read the name of her 23-year-old daugh­ter Micayla. Ian Sul­li­van, the fa­ther of Holmes’ youngest vic­tim, 6-year-old Veron­ica MoserSul­li­van, closed his eyes when her name was read. Veron­ica’s grand­fa­ther, Robert Sul­li­van, glared at Holmes and nod­ded his head softly.

“We are one step closer,” Joshua Nowlan said out­side court, adding that he’s “very happy with the re­sults.”

Wounded by the gun­fire, Nowlan used the cane he now needs to sup­port his legs as a prop dur­ing the trial, to show how Holmes sprayed bul­lets from his as­sault ri­fle.

The jury was told to re­turn Tues­day morn­ing for the fi­nal phase. Then, the nine women and three men will fi­nally de­cide whether the 27-year-old Holmes should re­ceive a lethal in­jec­tion, or spend life in prison with­out pa­role.

Sandy Phillips, whose daugh­ter Jes­sica Ghawi was killed, said pros­e­cu­tors ad­vised her that she would be tes­ti­fy­ing on Tues­day.

“I’m a lit­tle over­whelmed, but at the same time my job is to share Jessie with the jury, and I will do that to the best of my abil­ity,” she said out­side the court­house.

The same jury swiftly re­jected Holmes’ in­san­ity de­fense, de­cid­ing that he was ca­pa­ble of telling right from wrong when he car­ried out the theater at­tack in the Den­ver sub­urb of Aurora on July 20, 2012. Their quick de­ci­sion on Mon­day raised ex­pec­ta­tions that they will choose a death sen­tence af­ter what pros­e­cu­tors es­ti­mate will be two or three more days of tes­ti­mony from sur­vivors.

But le­gal ex­perts said there’s no way to pre­dict that fi­nal de­ci­sion.

‘Men­tal prob­lems did not


Mon­day’s pre­lim­i­nary ver­dict was highly tech­ni­cal. They found sim­ply that Holmes’ men­tal prob­lems and the por­trait his at­tor­neys painted of a kin­der, gen­tler younger man did not out­weigh the hor­rors of his cal­cu­lated at­tack on de­fense­less movie­go­ers.

This next stage can be more chal­leng­ing for each ju­ror, and to choose cap­i­tal pun­ish­ment, they must be unan­i­mous, Den­ver de­fense at­tor­ney Dan Recht said.

“They’re mak­ing the ul­ti­mate de­ci­sion of life or death, quite lit­er­ally,” Recht said. “All they need is one hold­out ... We are far from over on this.”

The de­fense had ar­gued that men­tal ill­ness re­duced his “moral cul­pa­bil­ity,” and that his per­sonal history made him wor­thy of mercy. They said it was schizophre­nia, not free will, that drove him to mur­der. They called his for­mer teach­ers, friends, sis­ter and par­ents, who said “Jimmy” had been a friendly child who with­drew so­cially as he grew older.

Robert and Ar­lene Holmes tes­ti­fied that they never sus­pected their son was men­tally ill. But Robert Holmes ac­knowl­edged that they rarely com­mu­ni­cated in the months be­fore the theater at­tack, and that in his fam­ily, emo­tions just weren’t talked about, even though his own fa­ther and sis­ter had been hos­pi­tal­ized with men­tal ill­ness.

“He was not a vi­o­lent per­son. At least not un­til the event,” Robert Holmes said, re­fer­ring to the theater at­tack.


Pak­istani la­bor­ers trans­port the front por­tion of a ve­hi­cle us­ing a hand­cart on a road in Peshawar, Pak­istan, Mon­day, Aug. 3.

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