Pros­e­cu­tion rests in trial of Holmes

Ash­ley Moser tes­ti­fies about the theater mas­sacre that killed her 6-year-old child.

Los Angeles Times - - THE NATION - By Maria L. La Ganga maria.la­ganga@latimes.com Twit­ter: @mar­i­ala­ganga

CEN­TEN­NIAL, Colo. — She thought it was a prank — the ex­plo­sion just fire­works, the hiss­ing some kind of a stink bomb. But Ash­ley Moser wanted to get out of the packed theater any­way, to pro­tect the un­born child in­side of her, to herd her 6year-old daugh­ter, Veron­ica Moser-Sul­li­van, to safety.

“I went to stand up, to reach for her hand, to try to exit,” Moser said Fri­day from the wit­ness stand, the first time she has spo­ken pub­licly about that night. “I felt it slip through my hand. As soon as I stood up, I re­mem­ber get­ting hit in the chest. I re­mem­ber fall­ing on top of her.”

“Did you feel her mov­ing?” Ara­pa­hoe County Dist. Atty. Ge­orge H. Brauch­ler asked.

“No,” Moser said, the word hol­low with an­guish.

The na­tion’s at­ten­tion may be fo­cused on the latest hor­ri­ble act of gun vi­o­lence 1,700 miles away in South Carolina, but here in the Den­ver sub­urbs, an ear­lier mass shoot­ing reached a trial mile­stone Fri­day. The pros­e­cu­tion rested in Peo­ple vs. James Ea­gen Holmes, and jurors filed out with Moser’s tes­ti­mony ring­ing in their ears.

The 27-year-old gun­man has ac­knowl­edged killing 12 movie­go­ers and wound­ing 70 oth­ers nearly three years ago. He has pleaded not guilty by rea­son of in­san­ity.

Brauch­ler: “Did you feel her breath­ing?” Moser, louder: “No.” Brauch­ler: “Could you get off of her?”

Moser, in tears: “No.” She paused, bit­ing her lip. “I tried but I couldn’t move.”

Moser was in Theater 9 of the Cen­tury 16 mul­ti­plex in Aurora, Colo., when Holmes burst in, guns blaz­ing. She was preg­nant and had just un­der­gone her first ul­tra­sound ear­lier that day. She took Veron­ica to see “The Dark Knight Rises” to celebrate the new baby. She thought it was “go­ing to be a fam­ily movie.”

To­day, Moser is par­a­lyzed from the waist down. One of Holmes’ bul­lets tore through her back and lodged in her spine. Surgery to save her life caused her to lose the child she was car­ry­ing. Veron­ica was one of the 12 dead, shot four times. Moser was one of the 70 wounded.

If a sin­gle per­son could cap­ture the im­men­sity of loss and pain and grief Holmes wrought on July 20, 2012, it is Moser. On Fri­day, she rolled into Di­vi­sion 201 of the Ara­pa­hoe County Jus­tice Cen­ter in an elec­tric wheel­chair. She clutched a tis­sue in her left hand. And she talked about the seven bul­lets that changed her life for­ever.

“I got shot three times, one in my thigh and two times in my back,” she said. “One went all the way through my chest. The other one ric­o­cheted off my shoul­der blade and went into my spine.”

Moser spent four months in the hos­pi­tal. She had to learn to use a spoon again, to make a sand­wich, sit up­right, dress her­self. She re­gained the use of her arms. She will never walk again.

As Moser fin­ished tes­ti­fy­ing, pros­e­cu­tors f lashed a pic­ture of Veron­ica on the three flat screens in Di­vi­sion 201. Three sec­onds was all Judge Car­los A. Samour Jr. would al­low, lest the dead child’s smile prej­u­dice the jury. It was her kinder­garten grad­u­a­tion photo, and the lit­tle girl with the sandy hair gripped a pen­cil in her left hand and grinned.

Ear­lier in the week, de­fense at­tor­ney Ta­mara Brady had listed all the things she wanted ex­cluded from Moser’s story and the ev­i­dence of her loss. High among them was a photo of Holmes’ youngest vic­tim.

The pros­e­cu­tion wanted the pic­ture shown, Brady ar­gued, just “so that Ash­ley will start cry­ing. There is no rel­e­vance” to the case, the 166 charges against the gun­man, the pos­si­ble death sen­tence, the at­tor­ney said.

Samour al­lowed the brief glimpse. Moser cried. She wasn’t the only one. Moser was 25 when Holmes stepped through the exit door of the mul­ti­plex, armed with an as­sault weapon, a rif le, a shot­gun, a hand­gun and a delu­sion — that killing as many peo­ple as pos­si­ble would make him feel bet­ter. Her loss has wo­ven its way through the lengthy trial like a dark thread since day one, when Brauch­ler played a snip­pet of sur­veil­lance video from the theater.

There was Veron­ica, pretty in pink in the grainy video, strolling past the con­ces­sion stand hold­ing some- one’s hand. She was wear­ing sparkly san­dals, a gift from her baby-sit­ter, and tiny ear­rings. She was headed for first grade in the fall. She was go­ing to be a big sis­ter.

“You’re a big girl, and you can sit on your own seat.”

That’s the last thing Moser said to her first, last and only child.

Moser is the third vic­tim of the Aurora shoot­ing to tes­tify from a wheel­chair placed be­side the wit­ness box.

By the time the pros­e­cu­tion rested its case on Fri­day, day 35 of the month­s­long trial, jurors had heard from more than 200 wit­nesses, viewed hours of video, leafed through hun­dreds of pages of doc­u­ments, seen hun­dreds of grue­some pho­to­graphs — gap­ing wounds, dead bod­ies.

The pool of jurors and al­ter­nates had shrunk to 19 from 24. Ju­ror 901, whose brother-in-law was the vic­tim of a ran­dom shoot­ing mid-trial, was dis­missed be­cause Samour wor­ried she could not be im­par­tial. On Thurs­day and Fri­day, she was back in the court­room, watch­ing from the au­di­ence, work­ing Su­doku puzzles dur­ing breaks.

Next week, the de­fense will be­gin pre­sent­ing its case.

Although the pros­e­cu­tion must prove Holmes was sane at the time of the rampage, his at­tor­neys are ex­pected to spend two weeks de­mon­strat­ing that he was “floridly psy­chotic.”

Craig Silverman, a for­mer chief deputy dis­trict at­tor­ney in Den­ver, said the task fac­ing Holmes’ public de­fend­ers is for­mi­da­ble.

“They just have to get one foot over that moun­tain of ev­i­dence that the pros­e­cu­tion has built,” he said. “That could be tough.”

Kent Nishimura Den­ver Post

ASH­LEY MOSER, who was par­a­lyzed in the shoot­ing and also lost her un­born child dur­ing surgery to save her life, poses last sum­mer by a tree ded­i­cated to her 6-year-old daugh­ter, Veron­ica Moser-Sul­li­van.

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