After more than 11 weeks, over 250 witnesses and 1,500 pieces of photographic evidence, the Colorado jury tasked with deciding whether James Holmes was insane or not when he murdered 12 people and wounded 70 in the Aurora theater shooting has reached a guilty verdict. Holmes was charged on 165 counts total, nearly all murder charges—there was one charge of possessing an explosive device—and has been found guilty on all of them. He will now be eligible for the death penalty.
The 12 members of the jury were selected from the largest jury pool in American history—almost 9,000—and were “questioned closely about their views on mental illness and the death penalty.” (You can read details about their backgrounds here.) They weren’t deliberating on Holmes’s guilt; the 27-year-old has confessed his responsibility for the massacre, which took place at a midnight showing of The Dark Knight on July 20, 2012—almost three years ago to the day. Holmes walked in through an exit door wearing contemporary armor—a ballistic helmet, bullet-resistant leggings; some thought he was in costume for the movie—and threw a smoke bomb, then started firing: 76 shots in total, 65 of them from a semi-automatic. They were debating on whether or not he could be held responsible for those actions.
Four psychiatrists testified at the trial about Holmes’s psychiatric state, notes the Huffington Post: the court-appointed two said he was mentally ill but legally sane, the defense two said he was insane. Holmes’s psychiatrist, Dr. Lynne Fenton, recalls his “frequent homicidal thoughts” but states they didn’t evince the specificity that would be required to call the police.
Aurora was the deadliest shooting in Colorado since Columbine. The youngest of his victims was age six. Holmes had also booby-trapped his apartment, which contained over 30 homemade napalm grenades. Later, Holmes stated that he had chosen a PG-13 movie to avoid killing children but had also collected one “value unit” for each life he had taken.
He was apprehended in what all reports describe as a calm manner, though he was ready for a conflict; he “carried first aid equipment and tire spikes in case police shot at him and they followed him in his car.” But, the first police officer to come into contact with him mistook him for one of their own.
At first, Oviatt said, he thought Holmes was a police officer, but as he drew within 20 feet, he realized something was terribly wrong.
“He was just standing there. All the other officers were running around, trying to get into the theater,” Oviatt said.
From a CNN article:
Prosecutors painted a picture of a once-promising neuroscience student who knew exactly what he was doing, both carrying out the attack and rigging his apartment with makeshift explosives ahead of authorities’ arrival.
His parents, Robert and Arlene Holmes, haven’t spoken publicly, but they have written two open letters and published a prayer book detailing the family’s internal struggle and pleading for their son’s life.
Wrote Arlene Holmes, “Severely mentally ill people need treatment, not execution.”
Holmes will now enter the death penalty sentencing phase, but let’s be frank about this: if he was any color besides white, he’d be almost three years in the ground.
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Image of Holmes at his first court appearance via AP