Holmes jury keeps execution as option as sentencing advances

Before you go, we thought you'd like these...
Before you go close icon
Death Penalty Still on the Table for Colorado Theater Shooter

CENTENNIAL, Colo. (AP) -- Jurors declined to rule out death for James Holmes on Monday as they moved toward sentencing the Colorado theater shooter.

The decision clears the way for one last attempt from both sides to sway the jury, with gripping testimony from victims about their harm and suffering, as well as more appeals for mercy for the man convicted of murdering 12 people and trying to kill 70 more.

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

See photos of the trial:

4 PHOTOS
James Holmes 'Dark Knight' Colo. theater shooting trial, Aurora, Colorado
See Gallery
Holmes jury keeps execution as option as sentencing advances
CENTENNIAL, CO - APRIL 27: Family members of Aurora Theater shooting victim Veronica Moser walk into the Arapahoe County Justice Center as opening arguments for the trial of Aurora Theater Shooting defendant James Holmes opened at the courthouse April 27, 2015 in Centennial, Colorado. Holmes faces multiple murder charges stemming from a mass shooting in July 2012 theater shooting that killed 12 people and wounded dozens of others. (Photo by Marc Piscotty/Getty Images)
CENTENNIAL, CO - APRIL 27: Members of the media film people walking into the Arapahoe County Justice Center as opening arguments for the trial of Aurora Theater Shooting defendant James Holmes opened at the courthouse April 27, 2015 in Centennial, Colorado. Holmes faces multiple murder charges stemming from a mass shooting in July 2012 theater shooting that killed 12 people and wounded dozens of others. (Photo by Marc Piscotty/Getty Images)
CENTENNIAL, CO - APRIL 27: Producers at Denver Post TV listen and take notes from the courtroom live feed of proceedings as opening arguments for the trial of Aurora Theater Shooting defendant James Holmes opened at the Arapahoe County Justice Center April 27, 2015 in Centennial, Colorado. Holmes faces multiple murder charges stemming from a mass shooting in July 2012 theater shooting that killed 12 people and wounded dozens of others. Holmes is seated at the very far left of the television screen. (Photo by Marc Piscotty/Getty Images)
HIDE CAPTION
SHOW CAPTION
of
SEE ALL
BACK TO SLIDE

Holmes' parents Robert and Arlene Homes held hands, their fingers interlaced, and held their eyes on the floor while Judge Carlos Samour, Jr., read the verdicts. With each unanimous "yes," it became ever more clear that jurors did not believe their testimony outweighed their son's crimes. Arlene Holmes began to cry. Robert held a box of tissues for her.

There were more tears elsewhere in the courtroom. 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 Moser-Sullivan, 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," said Joshua Nowlan outside court.

During the trial, Nowlan used the cane he has to walk with now as a prop, to show how Holmes used an assault rifle to spray gunfire at him and others in the audience. He said he's "very happy with the results."

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

The same jury rejected the defense claim that mental illness so warped his mind that Holmes could not tell right from wrong when he carried out the theater attack in the Denver suburb of Aurora on July 20, 2012.

In the first step of Colorado's complicated death sentencing process, prosecutors then argued, and jurors agreed, that capital punishment could be appropriate because Holmes sprang a terrifying and cruel ambush on hundreds of unsuspecting victims.

In the second step, defense lawyers argued that mental illness nevertheless reduced Holmes' "moral culpability," and that his personal history made him worthy of mercy. They said it was schizophrenia, not free will, that drove Holmes 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.

Jurors deliberated for less than three hours before announcing that his mental problems and the appealing portrait of a younger, kinder man did not outweigh the horrors of the calculated attack on defenseless moviegoers that Holmes waged as a graduate student.

Each of the 12 murders was charged twice - as "murder after deliberation" and "murder after extreme indifference," and on all 24 counts, they decided that "mitigating factors" did not outweigh "aggravating factors."

Holmes had been a promising scholar in a demanding neuroscience Ph.D. program at the University of Colorado until his life went awry amid the pressures of laboratory work. He broke up with his first and only girlfriend and dropped out of school, abandoning his longtime goal of becoming a scientist. He obtained prescription anti-anxiety and anti-depressant medicine by seeing a campus psychiatrist, but hid the depth of his turmoil from everyone, describing it instead in a secret journal.

That eerie notebook - which Holmes mailed to the psychiatrist hours before opening fire in the theater - became key evidence. In it, Holmes diagnosed himself with a litany of mental problems and methodically laid out his plans to kill. He wrote that he tried to fix his own brain, and failed.

Shortly after midnight, he slipped into the premiere of a Batman movie, stood before the capacity crowd of more than 400 people, threw gas canisters, and then opened fire, with a shotgun, assault rifle and semi-automatic pistol before surrendering meekly to police outside.

---

Contributors include Associated Press Writer Thomas Peipert in Centennial, Colo.


See photos of the shooting and aftermath:

13 PHOTOS
James Holmes Aurora 'Dark Knight' shooting & pre-trial
See Gallery
Holmes jury keeps execution as option as sentencing advances
Crime scene tape surrounds the Century 16 movie theater where 12 people were killed in a shooting rampage last Friday, on July 23, 2012 in Aurora, Colorado. Suspect James Holmes, 24, allegedly went on a shooting spree and killed 12 people and injured 58 during an early morning screening of 'The Dark Knight Rises.' (Photo by Kevork Djansezian/Getty Images)
Aurora police top brass commander Jack Daluz (R), Roger Cloyd (C) and division chief Kevin Flynn visit the makeshift memorial across the street from the Century 16 movie theater on July 25, 2012 in Aurora, Colorado. Twenty-four-year-old James Holmes is suspected of killing 12 and injuring 58 others on July 20 during a shooting rampage at a screening of 'The Dark Knight Rises' in Aurora, Colorado. (Photo by Kevork Djansezian/Getty Images)
Seen from the air, blood-stained footprints dot the back of the Century 16 movie theatre where suspect James Holmes went on a shooting rampage during an early morning screening of the new Batman movie, 'The Dark Knight Rises' on July 21, 2012 in Aurora, outside of Denver, Colorado. According to reports, 12 people have been killed and over 59 injured including 9 in critical condition . Police have the suspect, twenty-four year old James Holmes of North Aurora, in custody. (Photo by Kevork Djansezian/Getty Images)
AURORA, CO - JULY 21: Seen from the air, police continue to investigate outside the Century 16 movie theatre where suspect James Holmes went on a shooting rampage during an early morning screening of the new Batman movie, 'The Dark Knight Rises' on July 21, 2012 in Aurora, outside of Denver, Colorado. According to reports, 12 people have been killed and over 59 injured including 9 in critical condition . Police have the suspect, twenty-four year old James Holmes of North Aurora, in custody. (Photo by Kevork Djansezian/Getty Images)
AURORA, CO - JULY 21: Law enforcement officials tow nearby cars as they prepare to disarm the booby-trapped apartment of suspect James Holmes after he went on a shooting rampage at nearby Century 16 movie theatre during an early morning screening of the new Batman movie, 'The Dark Knight Rises' on July 21, 2012 in Aurora, outside of Denver, Colorado. According to reports, 12 people have been killed and over 59 injured. Police have the suspect, twenty-four year old James Holmes of North Aurora, in custody and are now dealing with various devices and trip wires in the apartment. (Photo by Chris Schneider/Getty Images)
Law enforcement officials carry buckets from the apartment of James Holmes, the suspect in the Century 16 movie theatre shooting, on July 21, 2012 in Aurora, Colorado. According to reports, 12 people have been killed and over 59 injured including 9 in critical condition. Police have the suspect, twenty-four year old James Holmes of North Aurora, in custody. (Photo by Chris Schneider/Getty Images)
Police break the window of the apartment of of James Holmes, the suspect of a shooting in a movie theater July 20, 2012 in Aurora, outside of Denver, Colorado. According to reports, 12 people have been killed and 59 wounded when James allegedly opened fire inside the a movie theater showing the 'The Dark Knight Rises.' Police have James, 24, of Holmes of North Aurora, in custody. (Photo by Thomas Cooper/Getty Images)
AURORA, CO - JULY 20: The Century 16 movie theatre is seen where a gunmen attacked movie goers during an early morning screening of the new Batman movie, 'The Dark Knight Rises' July 20, 2012 in Aurora, Colorado. According to reports, 12 people have been killed and over 59 injured. Police have the suspect, twenty-four year old James Holmes of North Aurora, in custody. (Photo by Thomas Cooper/Getty Images)
Law enforcement officers prepare to disarm the booby-trapped apartment of suspect James Holmes after he went on a shooting rampage at nearby Century 16 movie theatre during an early morning screening of the new Batman movie, 'The Dark Knight Rises' on July 21, 2012 in Aurora, outside of Denver, Colorado. According to reports, 12 people have been killed and over 59 injured. Police have the suspect, twenty-four year old James Holmes of North Aurora, in custody and are now dealing with various devices and trip wires in the apartment. (Photo by Chris Schneider/Getty Images)
Arlene (L) and Robert Holmes, the parents of Aurora theater shooting suspect James Holmes, arrive at the court house after a midday recess during a hearing in the Arapahoe County Justice Center on April 1, 2013 in Centennial, Colorado. It was announced that District Attorney George Brauchler will seek the death penalty for suspect James Holmes who is charged with 166 counts of murder, attempted murder and other crimes in the Aurora theater shooting on July 20, 2012. (Photo by Doug Pensinger/Getty Images)
(R), the parents of Aurora theater shooting suspect James Holmes, arrive at the courtroom for a hearing in the Arapahoe County Justice Center on April 1, 2013 in Centennial, Colorado. Prosecutors have said they will seek the death penalty for suspect James Holmes, who is charged with 166 counts of murder, attempted murder and other crimes in the Aurora theater shooting on July 20, 2012. (Photo by Doug Pensinger/Getty Images)
CENTENNIAL, CO - SEPTEMBER 20: In this photo provided by the Arapahoe County Sheriff's Office, James Holmes poses for a booking photo September 20, 2012 in Centennial, Colorado. Holmes is charged with 24 counts of murder and 116 counts of attempted murder in the July 20, shooting rampage at an opening night screening of 'The Dark Knight Rises' in Aurora, Colorado. (Photo by Arapahoe County Sheriff's Office via Getty Images)
HIDE CAPTION
SHOW CAPTION
of
SEE ALL
BACK TO SLIDE

Read Full Story

Sign up for Breaking News by AOL to get the latest breaking news alerts and updates delivered straight to your inbox.

Subscribe to our other newsletters

Emails may offer personalized content or ads. Learn more. You may unsubscribe any time.

From Our Partners