James Holmes Found Guilty in Colorado Theater Shooting Trial

By: CBS News; Associated Press Email
By: CBS News; Associated Press Email

By: CBS News
July 16, 2015

CENTENNIAL, Colo. -- A jury has convicted James Holmes on first-degree murder charges for killing 12 people when he opened fire at a Colorado movie theater in 2012.

Jurors deliberated for a day and a half over whether Holmes was a cold, calculating killer or a man in the grips of a psychotic breakdown when he opened fire in a crowded movie theater almost exactly three years ago. He was found guilty on all 165 charges against him.

CBS News legal analyst Rikki Klieman told CBSN that after a brief recess, the same jury will return to decide whether Holmes will spend life in prison without the possibility of parole or receive the death penalty.

In closing arguments, District Attorney George Brauchler kept the focus on the shooting's heavy toll on victims, weaving their stories into a larger narrative that tried to show Holmes was legally sane when he carried out the attack.

Defense attorney Daniel King presented Holmes, now 27, as a kind of victim himself, of schizophrenia so consuming he was unable to tell right from wrong when he slipped into the auditorium and started shooting, killing 12 people and injuring another 70 before his gun jammed and he surrendered. King showed jurors images of Holmes looking dazed and sullen with fiery orange hair after the July 20, 2012, attack.

Both sides tried to help jurors make sense of thousands of pieces of evidence and more than 250 witnesses who testified in the 11-week trial.

Dozens of victims and family members were in the courtroom for closing arguments, and some wept as Judge Carlos A Samour Jr. read the names of the dead and wounded while he gave the jury his instructions. Sandy Phillips wore a green scarf that belonged to her daughter, Jessica Ghawi, who was killed.

"Just because the trial is over, it's not over for us," Phillips said. "It's never going to be over for the 12 families who lost their loved ones in that theater."

Two state-appointed forensic psychiatrists who evaluated Holmes determined that he was legally sane, despite severe mental illness. One of the doctors, William Reid, showed jurors nearly 22 hours of sometimes chilling videotaped interviews in which Holmes haltingly describes taking aim at fleeing moviegoers and longing to kill others to increase his own self-worth.

Holmes spent months amassing an arsenal of weapons and body armor. He scrawled detailed plans for the massacre in a spiral notebook, weighing which auditoriums in the Aurora theater complex would allow for maximum carnage.

He also rigged his 800-square-foot apartment into a potentially lethal booby trap that he hoped would divert police and paramedics from the theater as he set about his attack. Holmes hid his plans from everyone, including a university psychiatrist to whom he mailed his notebook just before the attack.

Defense attorneys presented Holmes as a struggling neuroscience student who was on the brink of mental collapse well before he acted on increasingly powerful delusions that told him to kill.

They called to the stand mental health professionals who analyzed Holmes and found him suffering an array of illnesses, from schizophrenia to full-blown psychosis.

"The penalty phase is probably going to be the most troubling, because we do have to think as a society about the fact of whether or not it is appropriate to execute someone who is mentally ill," Klieman said earlier Thursday.

Holmes did not testify in his own defense during the trial. Klieman said it is unclear whether he would take the stand during the penalty phase.

"He's been medicated now, with anti-psychotic medication, for a two-year period," Klieman said. "So he's been medicated so long that he may be able to express remorse and to express his horror at what he did, since he's under medication, and at least in the penalty phase, to apologize and say he was sorry. That may go somewhere with a jury, or it may not."

However, Klieman pointed out, prosecutors would be able to cross-examine Holmes about his extensive planning of the attack.

The defense's strongest witness was Raquel Gur, a nationally known schizophrenia expert who interviewed Holmes for 28 hours and said his thoughts about killing other people became an uncontrollable storm in his mind in the months before the shooting. She and another psychiatrist declared him legally insane. The shooting would not have happened if not for Holmes psychosis, Gur said.

The doctors said Holmes had struggled with mental illness since childhood, seeking a career in neuroscience to better understand what he described in his notebook as his "broken mind" and a list of self-diagnoses.


By: Associated Press
July 16, 2015 - 6:20pm

CENTENNIAL, Colo. (AP) -- A jury has found Colorado theater shooter James Holmes guilty of murder in the methodically planned attack that left 12 dead and dozens wounded.

The verdict means the 27-year-old former neuroscience graduate student could get the death penalty for the 2012 shooting.

Jurors reached their decision Thursday after deliberating for about 13 hours over two days. They must now decide whether Holmes should be executed or sent to prison for life without the possibility of parole.

Holmes pleaded not guilty by reason of insanity, and his attorneys argued he was so addled by mental illness that he was unable to tell right from wrong at the time of the shootings.

Prosecutors maintained the attack was meticulously planned over months and Holmes knew what he was doing.


By: Associated Press
July 16, 2015

DENVER (AP) -- A verdict has been reached in the Colorado theater shooting trial of James Holmes.

The verdict is set to be read around 6pm.

We will update you as soon as more details are available.


By: CBS News
April 27, 2015

CENTENNIAL, Colo. - A prosecutor declared Monday that two mental health evaluations found Colorado theater gunman James Holmes to be sane. It was the first public word on what different psychiatrists determined after examining the former neuroscience student accused of killing 12 people and wounding 70 at a midnight "Batman" premiere.

The statement by District Attorney George Brauchler marked the start of a long-awaited, lengthy and emotionally wrenching trial to determine if he'll be executed, spend his life in prison, or be committed to an institution as criminally insane.

Holmes pleaded not guilty by reason of insanity to 166 counts, including first-degree murder, attempted murder and an explosives offense, after the mayhem he caused in suburban Denver on July 20, 2012. It remains one of America's deadliest shootings, and that Holmes was the lone gunman has never been in doubt. He was arrested at the scene, along with an arsenal of weapons on his body and in his car.

His fate depends on whether a jury agrees that he was unable to know right from wrong because of a mental illness or defect three years ago, when he slipped into the midnight Batman premiere, unleashed tear gas and marched up and down the aisles, firing at people who tried to flee.

"Through this door is horror. Through this door are bullets, blood, brains and bodies. Through this door, one guy who thought as if he had lost his career, lost his love life, lost his purpose, came to execute a plan," said Brauchler, standing before what appeared to be a scale model of the theater, still covered in a black cloth.

"Four-hundred people came into a boxlike theater to be entertained, and one person came to slaughter them," the prosecutor said.

Each side was allowed two hours for opening statements, with public defenders Daniel King and Katherine Spengler following his presentation.

Defense lawyers say Holmes was in the grips of a psychotic episode and could not tell right from wrong when he went on the rampage. His parents, Robert and Arlene Holmes, in pleading for his life, have called their son a "human being gripped by a severe mental illness."

Under Colorado law, the burden falls on the state to prove beyond a reasonable doubt that he was "NOT insane," Judge Carlos A. Samour Jr., told the jury. And that, in turn, depends in part on "a culpable state of mind:" If Holmes acted with deliberation and intent - willfully taking actions that he knew would kill people -- then even if he had mental problems, he should be found guilty of murder, the judge said.

Prosecutors allege that Holmes planned the violence for months, buying a rifle, a shotgun, two pistols, tear gas canisters, body armor, thousands of rounds of ammunition and a chemical stockpile that turned his 800-square-foot apartment into a booby trap that might have caused a conflagration.

"He tried to murder a theater full of people to make himself feel better and because he thought it would increase his self-worth," Brauchler said. "I would like to focus on the victims," he said, but instead he must prove that Holmes was not insane.

The state has already spent millions seeking that verdict, managing an outsized number of victims, witnesses and more than 85,000 pages of evidence. Nearly three years passed hundreds of motions were filed in legal debates over capital punishment and insanity pleas.

Insanity defenses are successful in only 25 percent of felony trials nationally, even less so in homicides.

"Lay people tend to think of people with mental illness as extremely dangerous, and that also influences jurors, especially if someone has killed someone," said Christopher Slobogin, who teaches law and psychiatry at Vanderbilt Law School. "Usually there's evidence of intent and planning that seems to be counterintuitive to the lay view of mental illness."

Winning a trial on mental-health grounds is rare, but then again, so are jury trials for mass shooters. Most are killed by police, kill themselves or plead guilty.

A review of 160 mass shootings found killers went to trial 74 times, and just three were found insane, according to Grant Duwe, a Minnesota corrections official who wrote the book "Mass Murder in the United States: A History."

Just one has won a mental-health case in the last two decades, Duwe said: Michael Hayes, who shot nine people, killing four, in North Carolina in 1988. Based on that, Holmes "faces some pretty long odds," he said.

Brauchler began laying out how the once-promising doctoral candidate in neuroscience plotted and planned for months, amassing guns, ammunition, tear gas grenades and enough chemicals to turn his dingy apartment into a potentially lethal booby trap that could have caused even more carnage.

Holmes was arrested almost immediately, while stripping off his body armor in the parking lot outside the Century 16 movie theater where he replaced Hollywood violence with real human carnage.

Bracuhler said Holmes calmly explained to police at the time that he had rigged his apartment with booby traps. He also said he had been listening to techno music on headphones under the gas mask he wore during the shooting.

His victims included two active-duty servicemen, a single mom, a man celebrating his 27th birthday, and an aspiring broadcaster who had survived a mall shooting in Toronto. Several died shielding friends or loved ones.

At 6 years old, the youngest to die was Veronica Moser-Sullivan. Her mother, Ashley Moser, was left paralyzed and lost her unborn child.

Holmes' trial could take at least four months or more and is sure to be emotionally wrenching. The 12 jurors and 12 alternates - chosen from a pool of 9,000 because it was so difficult to find people who weren't personally affected - won't know if they'll join the deliberations until after the trial.

Some survivors want Holmes executed, even if that means reliving horrific details.

"It still doesn't bring him back, but we want justice," said W. David Hoover, who wants to avenge the death of his 18-year-old nephew, A.J. Boik. "Real justice is going to happen when this animal leaves this Earth."

Fire Chief Larry Trujillo, whose daughter, Taylor, survived the shooting when a friend threw her to the floor, said while entering the courthouse that his faith enables him to forgive, but that this may be easier for him to say: His daughter survived.


DENVER (AP) -- A judge says lawsuits can move forward against the owner of the Colorado movie theater where a gunman killed 12 people and injured 70 others in 2012.

The Denver Post reports that U.S. District Judge R. Brooke Jackson ruled Friday that Cinemark could have predicted moviegoers might be targeted for an attack, noting "the grim history" of mass killings in recent times.

Jackson writes that although theaters had until then avoided a mass shooting, moviegoers are "perhaps even more than students in a school or shoppers in a mall, `sitting ducks."'

The ruling, which allows 20 lawsuits to advance, didn't decide if Cinemark did enough to try to prevent the shooting in the Denver suburb of Aurora. Cinemark didn't immediately return a phone message left by The Associated Press on Saturday.


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