Colorado theater shooter found guilty of murder, may face death penalty

The Aurora theater gunman James Holmes © R.J. Sangosti
James Holmes, the gunman who opened fire in a Colorado theater three years ago, killing 12 people, has been found guilty on all first-degree murder charges against him. The verdict means he could receive the death penalty.

The 27-year-old Holmes never denied he was behind the shooting, and pleaded not guilty by way of insanity.

As the verdict was read, Holmes did not show any noticable reaction. 

Holmes faced 165 charges stemming from the July 2012 incident in Aurora, Colorado, during which he entered a movie theater showing the Batman film “The Dark Knight Rises,” deployed tear gas and proceeded to shoot into the audience with several weapons.

Twelve people were killed and 70 others injured as a result.

Among the charges were 24 counts of first-degree murder, 116 counts of attempted first-degree murder, and one charge of illegally possessing an explosive.

He was found guilty on all 165 counts.

The jury reached its verdict after two days of deliberation. The guilty verdict means that a sentencing phase will begin to determine whether Holmes will receive the death penalty serve life in prison without parole.

"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," CBS News legal analyst Rikki Klieman said.

During closing arguments, Holmes’ defense attorney, Dan King, argued that his client’s mental issues were the sole reason for the attack.

“The evidence is clear that he could not control his thoughts, … he could not control his actions, and he could not control his perceptions,” King said during closing arguments, according to KTLA News.

“Only the mental illness caused this to happen and nothing else.”

Four psychiatrists agreed that Holmes suffered from Schizophrenia Spectrum Disorder, Yahoo News reported, but they were not unanimous in finding him legally insane while carrying out the attack. Both court-appointed doctors found him sane, while the two consulted by the defense concluded he was not.

Holmes was presented by the defense as a former graduate student who was overwhelmed by his degraded mental health. Holmes dropped out of a nueroscience program a few weeks before the theater attack.

The prosecution argued that Holmes always knew what he was doing and intended to kill those he shot at.

“Look at the evidence, then hold this man accountable,” Arapahoe County District Attorney George Brauchler said, as quoted by KTLA. “Reject this claim that he didn’t know right from wrong when he murdered those people and tried to kill the others.”

Evidence was also presented showing Holmes communicating with his parents via email, discussing normal issues. At the same time these emails were being sent, Holmes was obtaining a stockpile of deadly weaponry.

“We know what insanity is … this ain’t it,” he added, according to Yahoo. “He knew what he was doing when he killed those people. He intended to kill them. That was his specific goal.”

More than 200 witnesses took the stand during the three-month trial.