Jurors begin deliberating fate of James Holmes in Colorado theater shooting

Jurors in Colorado on Wednesday began their first day of deliberations over the fate of James E. Holmes who went into a suburban Denver movie theater three years ago and unleashed a deadly fusillade that killed 12 people and left 70 wounded.

Both the prosecution and the defense agree that Holmes, now 27, was the gunman who launched a military-style attack in the theater in Aurora, Colo., on July 20, 2012. Jurors will have to decide if he was legally sane and what penalty he will face.

Holmes has pleaded not guilty by reason of insanity to 165 charges including murder.

If Holmes is convicted, jurors will decide whether he is sentenced to death or to life in prison without parole. If Holmes is acquitted, he will be committed indefinitely to the state mental hospital.

The trial took more than 11 weeks after six months of jury selection. Jurors heard from more than 250 witnesses, including survivors, viewed more than 24 hours of video and saw more than 1,500 photos, including images of the victims. They examined Holmes’ guns and ammunition. Holmes didn't testify.

The defense has repeatedly insisted that Holmes was not legally responsible under Colorado law. Defense lawyer Daniel King in his closing argument on Tuesday said that Holmes was mentally ill for years and was controlled by schizophrenia.

“The mental illness caused this to happen. Only the mental illness caused this, and nothing else,” King said in his closing argument.

But Arapahoe County Dist. Atty. George H. Brauchler said Holmes met the legal test of knowing right from wrong.

“That guy was sane beyond a reasonable doubt, and he needs to be held accountable for what he did,” Brauchler told jurors in his closing argument.

The more than 400 moviegoers who entered the theater that night “came in hoping to see the story of a hero dressed in black, someone who would fight insurmountable odds for justice,” Brauchler said. “Instead, a different figure appeared by the screen.... He came there with one thing in his heart and his mind, and that was mass murder.”

Brauchler said Holmes had deliberately and meticulously planned the attack. After the shooting, Holmes surrendered to police outside the theater, a sign of his ability to function, the prosecutor argued on Tuesday.

“That is logical. That is rational, and that is anything but psychotic,” Brauchler said.

Brauchler got the last word in the prosecution’s rebuttal.

“We know what insanity is,” Brauchler said. “This isn’t it.”

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