James Holmes, the man behind the July 2012 theater shooting that caused the deaths of 12 people, was found guilty of first-degree murder.
Facing two counts of first-degree murder – each for the 12 victims he gunned down – he was found guilty on all 24 counts. The shooting took place during the screening of the movie “The Dark Knight Rises” in Aurora on July 20, 2012.
Holmes remained impassive while the verdict was being delivered. Facing a total of 165 charges, he had previously pleaded not guilty on grounds of insanity.
Holmes, former doctoral student in neuroscience at the University of Colorado-Denver, was also found guilty on 140 counts for 70 people who were wounded in the incident in addition to one count of possession or control of an explosive or incendiary device.
“My body shuddered. A sense of relief came over me,” said Yousef Gharbi, one of the wounded who was shot in the head.
“Like everybody, I sighed. I gasped for air. That’s what I wanted to hear, but I didn’t know if that’s what I was going to hear,” he said, as reported by NBC News.
Sandy Phillips, mother of deceased Jessica Ghawi, was elated with the verdict.
“We are very happy that this animal, that this monster, will never see the light of day.” Phillips said.
Jansen Young, the girlfriend of deceased Jonathan Blunk, said she was contended with the verdict.
“I didn’t know what I would feel when I came, but I just feel so much relief. Justice is here,” Young said, as reported by CNN. “This is a huge step forward today.”
The jury, which started deliberations on Wednesday morning, delivered the verdict after almost 12.5 hours.
According to Daily Mail, Colorado Governor John Hickenlooper said, “This has been an emotional and difficult time for the victims, their families, loved ones and friends. My hope is that this step brings some peace to each of them, and begins the healing process for all of Colorado.”
Holmes could face the death penalty during the sentencing phase, which will last for about a month.
The families in Aurora have found justice; we must now work to prevent cases like these. https://t.co/8skQvhsiMg
— Bonnie WatsonColeman (@RepBonnie) July 16, 2015
Holmes’ lawyers had said that he should not be found accountable on grounds of insanity, though Holmes had never denied perpetrating the shooting.
During closing arguments, Defense Attorney Dan King said, “The evidence is clear that he could not control his thoughts… he could not control his actions, and he could not control his perceptions.”
“Only the mental illness caused this to happen and nothing else,” King added.
Holmes had bought his ticket to the midnight premier of the Batman movie 12 days before the screening.
He walked into the theatre and then left, leaving the door ajar. He re-entered 18 minutes into the movie, wearing a helmet, gas mask and protective clothing. After releasing tear gas from a canister, he opened fire with three guns: an AR-15 rifle, a 12-gauge shotgun and a .40 caliber handgun.
He eventually surrendered outside the theatre.
Other weapons and ammunition were discovered in his car.
Holmes’ parents, Robert and Arlene Holmes, wrote two letters and a prayer book pleading for their son’s life.
They wrote in a December 2014 letter published in the Denver Post, “We have spent every moment for more than two years thinking about those who were injured, and the families and friends of the deceased who were killed, in the theater shooting in Aurora.
“We are always praying for everyone in Aurora. We wish that July 20, 2012, never happened.”
However, they maintain Holmes should have been arrested, placed on trial and given a death sentence, all because of his insanity.
“(James Holmes) is not a monster. He is a human being gripped by a severe mental illness,” his parents wrote. “We believe that the death penalty is morally wrong, especially when the condemned is mentally ill.”
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