Guilty Verdict for James Holmes in Aurora Attack
JULY 16, 2015
CENTENNIAL, Colo. — Inside Courtroom 201, the families of the dead and wounded watched in taut silence on Thursday afternoon as the judge shuffled through a stack of verdict forms containing the fate of James E. Holmes, the gunman who slipped into a Colorado movie theater in 2012 and opened fire on their sons and daughters, friends and loved ones.
As the judge began reading the verdicts — guilty, guilty, guilty — repeated 165 times over an entire hour, for each count of murder and attempted murder, the families sobbed quietly, clutched one another’s shoulders and nodded along to a recitation of guilt that many had been waiting nearly three years to hear.
Sandy Phillips wrapped herself tightly in the green scarf that her slain daughter, Jessica Ghawi, had loved. A father whose son was killed patted the arm of Joshua Nowlan, who was wounded and now walks with a cane.As each name of the 12 people killed and 70 wounded was read, and read again — prosecutors filed two charges per victim — the families looked to the corner of the public gallery and gave one another a quiet nod or an arm squeeze.
After an emotional 10-week trial, one of the longest and most complex in this state’s history, it took a jury of nine women and three men about 12 hours of deliberation over two days to convict Mr. Holmes on all counts. He now faces a lengthy sentencing process in which prosecutors are seeking the death penalty.
The jury’s verdict roundly rejected arguments from his defense lawyers that he had had a psychotic break and was legally insane when he carried out the massacre inside the Century 16 theater in suburban Aurora, Colo., on July 20, 2012. His lawyers argued he was not in control of his thoughts or actions, but prosecutors said Mr. Holmes, despite being mentally ill, had plotted the shootings with calculation and knew what he wanted to accomplish when he started firing into the crowd.
As Judge Carlos Samour Jr. read the 165 counts against Mr. Holmes, the defendant stood silently between his lawyers, staring straight ahead, with his hands tucked into the pockets of a pair of khaki-colored pants. He did not glance at his parents sitting two rows behind. When the hourlong recitation of the verdicts was done, he sat down and lightly swiveled in his chair.
Coming within days of the Aurora shooting’s third anniversary, the guilty verdict ends one phase of a grueling legal saga, but another one is set to begin.
As the district attorney in suburban Arapahoe County argues for the death penalty, the jury will begin weighing the toll and nature of Mr. Holmes’s actions to decide whether to send him to prison for life or to Colorado’s death row.
The sentencing phase is expected to take weeks. It could feature more wrenching statements from survivors and families of the victims, as well as testimony from defense witnesses discussing the role that mental illness played in propelling Mr. Holmes toward the movie theater that night.
“Look for the defense to emphasize the fact that James Holmes truly suffers from a serious mental illness, that he is in dire need of ongoing treatment and that while incarcerated he does not pose any real threat or danger to society,” said Steven Pitt, a forensic psychiatrist in Arizona who has followed the case closely. “Look for the prosecution to try and minimize the extent of Holmes’s mental illness and instead depict him as someone who is depraved and rotten to the core.”
The district attorney, George Brauchler, has said that for Mr. Holmes, “justice is death.”
Prosecutors argued that Mr. Holmes plotted the shootings for several weeks, deliberately and meticulously, because he had lost his first and only girlfriend, had dropped out of his graduate program and had generally lost his purpose in life.
To that end, prosecutors brought in professors and classmates who described Mr. Holmes’s struggles as a first-year graduate student in the neuroscience program at the Anschutz Medical Campus of the University of Colorado. Mr. Holmes quit the program in June 2012, after he failed important oral exams, and declined the chance to retake them.
Prosecutors showcased pages from a spiral notebook in which Mr. Holmes inscribed murderous fantasies and nonsensical theories about life and death, and where he plotted what kind of attack to carry out, and how and where to do it.
But where prosecutors saw calculation, the defense saw “a whole lot of crazy.”
Two psychiatrists who testified for the defense said Mr. Holmes lacked the ability to tell right from wrong or act with intent — critical elements of sanity under Colorado law.
Their testimony clashed with two court-appointed psychiatrists who said that although Mr. Holmes suffered a severe mental illness on a spectrum with schizophrenia, he was not legally insane when he walked into the theater.
Some families responded with visible relief, and public officials in Colorado — many of whom attended memorial services and have met with victims’ families — said they hoped that the verdict would bring a small measure of solace. Others were warier of a sentencing process that could lead to years of appeals if Mr. Holmes is sentenced to death.
“This has been an emotional and difficult time for the victims, their families, loved ones and friends,” Gov. John W. Hickenlooper of Colorado said in a statement. “My hope is that this step brings some peace to each of them and begins the healing process for all of Colorado.”
After the verdict was delivered, Jansen Young stood outside the courthouse in an afternoon rain and said she felt a weight lifted. When the shooting started that night, her boyfriend, Jonathan Blunk, pushed her under the seats and boxed her in, she said. He was killed, and on Thursday, his name was the first one read in the litany of murder victims.
Ms. Young said she had looked at Mr. Holmes in court and could not fathom his demeanor.
“It’s amazing to me that there is no response,” she said.
Jessica Watts, a cousin of Mr. Blunk, said the pain she experienced during the trial had gotten so bad that a month ago she stopped attending. She spent the summer going to the pool and zoo with her children — following the advice that another victim’s family member had given her, to focus on the living — but on Thursday, her phone started ringing.
She said she began shaking as the verdict was read, and tried to calm herself by thinking about the people for whom she had come to court that day. “It’s all these families that have been touched by this massive tragedy,” Ms. Watts said. “Win, lose, whatever, there’s 12 people that are never coming back.”
Lawyers for Colorado movie gunman James Holmes wrap up case
Sunday, July 12, 2015
Judge orders new sanity evaluation for accused Colorado movie theater shooter
february 20, 2014
(CNN) — A judge has ordered that accused Colorado movie theater shooter James Holmes undergo an additional sanity examination, saying there was good cause to believe previous testing was “incomplete and inadequate,” according to a ruling issued Wednesday.
Arapahoe County District Judge Carlos Samour Jr. ordered Holmes to undergo an independent exam by the Colorado Mental Health Institute in Pueblo by early March, and the report must be filed by July 14.
Samour further ruled the new examiner may not take into account any mitigating factors that are identified in the state’s death penalty statutes.
Prosecutors are seeking the death penalty against Holmes, who is accused of opening fire in a packed movie theater in Aurora, Colorado, during a July 2012 midnight showing of the latest Batman installment, “The Dark Knight Rises.”
Authorities have said Holmes was dressed head to toe in protective gear.
Holmes allegedly threw tear-gas canisters in the theater and then opened fire on the patrons, according to witnesses. Police say he used several weapons, including an AR-15 rifle, before fleeing the theater.
Outside the theater, the shooter was apprehended, identifying himself to police as “The Joker,” one of Batman’s archenemies.
Holmes faces 166 charges in the rampage that left 12 people dead and dozens more wounded.
Holmes was a neuroscience doctoral student at the University of Colorado’s Anschutz Medical Campus until the month before the attack; prosecutors have argued that he began plotting his attack while still enrolled.
The defense, meanwhile, appears to be focused not so much on what Holmes allegedly did that night but his mental state then and earlier.
A psychiatrist who treated him had warned campus police at the University of Colorado how dangerous he was, prompting them to deactivate his college ID to prevent him from passing through any locked doors, according to court documents.
COLORADO SHOOTING – What We Know About James Holmes
July 27, 2012 Huffington Post
James Holmes, the suspected shooter in last week’s movie theater massacre, has told his Colorado jailers he doesn’t know why he’s locked behind bars, the Daily News reports.
But no one at the Arapahoe County Detention Center is buying Holmes’ story, a lockup worker told the News. The jailers who come in contact with Holmes, who is sequestered from other inmates, believe he’s faking amnesia.
Since the 24-year-old PhD dropout was accused of killing 12 theatergoers and wounding 58 at a midnight screening of “The Dark Knight Rises” last Friday, the media has lavished attention on Holmes’ odd behavior.
The suspect appeared in court on Monday with brightly dyed orange hair and made peculiar facial expressions. At times his eyes bulged and he often appeared tired.
Holmes was taken into custody after he allegedly stormed the sold-out premiere of the latest Batman film. Police have said Holmes wore riot gear, used smoke bombs and armed himself with three guns during one of the most violent shootings in American history.
DENVER — The former graduate student accused in the deadly Colorado movie theater shooting was being treated by a psychiatrist at the university where he studied, according to court papers filed Friday.
Defense attorneys for James Holmes, 24, made the disclosure in a court motion. It sought to discover the source of leaks to some media outlets that Holmes sent the psychiatrist a package containing a notebook with descriptions of an attack.
The motion said the leak violated a judge’s gag order and jeopardized Holmes’ right to a fair trial.
“The government’s disclosure of this confidential and privileged information has placed Mr. Holmes’ constitutional rights to due process and a fair trial by an impartial jury in serious jeopardy,” wrote the attorneys.
The motion added that the package contained communications between Holmes and his psychiatrist that should be shielded from public view. The document describes Holmes as a “psychiatric patient” of Dr. Lynne Fenton.
July 26, 2012 Huffington Post
DENVER — Tightening the secrecy over the year Colorado shooting suspect James Holmes spent studying neuroscience, a judge has barred the University of Colorado Denver from releasing any records about the former graduate student’s time there.
What happened to the 24-year-old during his time in the program at the school’s Anschutz Medical Campus is one of the many mysteries stemming from last Friday’s mass shooting at a theater in which he’s accused of killing 12 people and injuring 58 others at a midnight showing of “The Dark Knight Rises.”
Neighbors and friends in San Diego, where Holmes grew up, described him as brilliant and sometimes awkward but never displaying signs of violence. He entered the prestigious Colorado program in June 2011, but a year later he dropped out after taking a year-end oral exam.
Numerous media organizations, including The Associated Press, filed open records requests for school records about Holmes after he was named as the suspect in the shooting that happened just after midnight July 20.
But in an order signed Monday and released by the school Thursday in response to an open records request by the AP, District Court Judge William Blair Sylvester said releasing information in response to requests filed under the Colorado Open Records Act would “impede an ongoing investigation.” Sylvester is overseeing the criminal case against Holmes, who is expected to appear in court Monday and be formally charged.
Sylvester cited a provision of the Colorado Open Records Act that prevents the public from viewing open records “prohibited by … the order of any court.”
Arapahoe County District Attorney Carol Chambers requested the order after the University of Colorado Denver warned her office Saturday about the record requests. In its request to the court, the district attorney’s office noted that reporters were not requesting educational records, which would be prohibited from being released, but emails that are not exempted from the open records law.
The order was not part of the publicly available case file until Thursday due to a clerical error, said Robert McCallum, a spokesman for the courts.
Sylvester had already issued a gag order barring attorneys and police from discussing the case with reporters. He has also sealed the case file, preventing the public from seeing the accusations and legal arguments that both sides will make.
Mark Caramanica, freedom of information director at the Reporters Committee for Freedom of the Press in Arlington, Va., called the order “highly unorthodox.” He said it was unusual that a public institution would consult with an outside entity instead of just following the law and answering the request.
“It seems very premature for a court to get involved and make such a sweeping order,” Caramanica said. “It seems like a very broad and overly aggressive approach.”
The judge’s order follows a pattern of a tightly controlled flow of information since the assault. Hours after the shooting, university officials tried to limit information released about Holmes.
About 11 hours after the attack, Barry Shur, dean of the graduate school at the university, sent an email to faculty, students and staff saying: “If anyone is contacted by the media, PLEASE refer them” to a school spokeswoman. Shur’s email was released in response to an open records request from the AP.
Earlier this week, Shur denied trying to prohibit those who knew Holmes from talking.
“We told them they are fully free to interact with the media,” he said at a press conference Monday.
July 24, 2012 Huffington Post
CENTENNIAL, Colo. — James Holmes spent a year in a small neuroscience doctoral program, surrounded by scientists and roughly three dozen classmates delving into the inner workings of the brain.
The University of Colorado, Denver, isn’t saying if they had any warning signs.
Experts say, however, the intimacy of the program and its focus on the brain may not have been enough for staff and students to detect that Holmes was on a course that police say ended with a deadly rampage at a midnight showing of the new Batman movie.
Supported by a prestigious federal grant, Holmes, 24, was in the first year of a program at the Anschutz Medical Campus dedicated to neuroscience, studying such topics as how the brain works or malfunctions or helping develop drugs to treat epilepsy and other disorders.
But it is not behavioral science or psychology, experts say.
David Eagleman, who runs the Initiative on Neuroscience and the Law at Baylor University, said some neuroscientists are experts in mental illnesses and aberrant behavior, but others spend most of their time studying molecular chemistry.
“It’s really only a fraction of professors” who could identify a simmering mental disorder, Eagleman said. “Many people in neuroscience are not specialized in the issue of picking up mental illness … There are plenty of people who just study mice and cats and stuff like that.”
Holmes is accused of methodically stockpiling weapons and explosives at work and at home that police say he used to kill 12 people and wound 58 more at a movie theater Friday in nearby Aurora. Police say he also booby-trapped his apartment with the intent to kill police officers.
Holmes’ arraignment hearing is on Monday.
The prosecutor in the case of James Holmes, suspected in the shooting deaths of 12 moviegoers in Colorado, said Monday that the prosecution has an “enormous amount of evidence,” but that she would not call it a “slam dunk.”
“There is no such thing as a slam dunk case … we would never presume that it would be a slam dunk. We will work very hard on this case to prosecute it,” Arapahoe County District Attorney Carol Chambers said.
Holmes — who faces the possibility of life in prison or the death penalty for allegedly carrying out one of the most deadly mass murders in U.S. history — might have to plead insanity, according to veteran Seattle attorney and legal analyst Anne Bremner.
“The insanity defense appears to be the only option,” Bremner told The Huffington Post. “We don’t hold those who don’t have the requisite criminal intent criminally accountable.”
July 23, 2012 Huffington Post
The man accused of killing 12 moviegoers and wounding 58 more in Aurora, Colo., last week made his first appearance in court Monday morning.
James Holmes, a 24-year-old former doctoral student at the University of Colorado, Denver, has been held on first-degree murder charges in the July 20 shooting spree at a midnight screening of “The Dark Knight Rises.”
The brief procedural hearing, known as an advisement, took place at the Arapahoe County Justice Center. Holmes, who was represented by a public defender, appeared in court with brightly dyed orange hair and wore a burgundy jail uniform. He seemed sleepy or dazed and often had his eyes shut.
Holmes will face formal charges from prosecutors on July 30, and District Attorney Carol Chambers said her office is considering the death penalty against him,according to the Associated Press. District Court Judge William Sylvester issued an order forbidding Holmes from having contact with victims or witnesses.
Earlier Monday, authorities said Holmes was not cooperating with the investigationbecause he refused to answer questions about the shooting.
Police arrested Holmes early Friday morning minutes after the shooting in the sold-out theater. Holmes, dressed in ballistic gear and armed with an assault rifle and three other guns, set off gas canisters before opening fire, police said.
A motive in the shooting is not yet known. Holmes will remain detained without bond at the county lockup in Centennial, Colo.
July 22, 2012 Huffington Post
Inmates and prison workers are reporting unusual behavior from the 24-year-old sole suspect of the Aurora, Colorado movie theater shooting.
According to the New York Daily News,James Egan Holmes entered the prison dressed up like the Joker, “acting crazy” and “spitting on guards”. The Daily News also reported that other inmates have threatened to kill Holmes.
“All the inmates were talking about killing him,” just-released inmate Wayne Medley told the Daily News. “Everyone was looking for an opportunity. It’s all they could talk about.”
Holmes is being held at the Arapahoe Detention Center in solitary confinement.
Meanwhile, authorities are still investigating and trying to disarm the suspect’s apartment. A bomb squad managed to set off a controlled detonation on Saturday, but it’s unclear how many booby traps he set.
According to witnesses, Holmes entered the theater during the first 30 minutes of the midnight premiere of The Dark Knight Rises at the Century 16 theater in Aurora, Colorado. Some moviegoers thought that Holmes, who was wearing a gas mask and body armor, was part of the movie premiere.
Police said that he had planned the attack for months.
July 20, 2012 Huffington Post
UPDATE 1:30 p.m. — The Poway Unified School District has issued a statement, confirming reports that James Holmes was a graduate of Westview High School, Class of 2006.
“On behalf of the Poway Unified School District, Superintendent [John] Collins joins the rest of the nation in offering our deepest condolences to the victims and their families,” the statement read.
UPDATE 1:00 p.m. — According to University of Colorado Hospital spokeswoman Jacque Montgomery, James Holmes was studying neuroscience in a Ph.D. program at the University of Colorado-Denver graduate school. Montgomery said Holmes enrolled in the neuroscience program in 2011 and was in the process of withdrawing. She said she did not know why he had decided to withdraw.
UPDATE 11:30 a.m. — More details are emerging about James Holmes, the suspected shooter in Thursday night’s movie theater massacre in Colorado.
Lt. Andra Brown of the San Diego Police Department briefed reporters outside James Holmes’ mother’s home Friday. Brown confirmed Holmes attended high school in San Diego before going to Colorado to pursue additional studies. Brown would not name either school.
San Diego media outlets have reported Holmes attended high school at Westview in Carmel Valley and graduated in 2006.
Brown said Holmes’ mother was in her house, but that his father has been “escorted from the home.” She did not elaborate further.
“The police department is just here to preserve the peace and to make sure the privacy of the family is still respected,” said Brown. “That’s the only reason why the San Diego police department is here.”
Brown also provided a statement to reporters from the family.
“Our hearts go out to those who were involved in this tragedy,” the statement read. “We ask that the media respect our privacy at this difficult time … We are still trying to process this info and appreciate that people respect our privacy.”
Margie Aguilar, who has lived for 10 years on the same San Diego block as Holmes’ family briefly spoke to HuffPost
“I feel heartbroken,” she said, adding that her children went to high school with the suspected shooter. “They’re [the Holmes family] victims in this, too. I want to respect their privacy.
“Everybody is in shock and devastated.”
Police are still trying to clear the suspect’s Aurora apartment. According to police, explosives found inside the unit are “very sophisticated” and could take some time to disarm.
The U.S. Army, in response to speculation that Holmes had served in the military, issued a statement that said they found “no evidence” he had served in the Army.”
EARLIER — An initial portrait of James Holmes, the man allegedly responsible for the mass shooting spree in a Colorado movie theater, is slowly emerging.
According to the police, Holmes lives in an apartment in Aurora, approximately five miles from the Century 16 movie theater where he gunned down at least 12 people and wounded 38 others during a midnight screening of the new Batman movie, “The Dark Knight Rises.”
Authorities at this hour are cautiously entering the apartment. The suspect, according to police, said he had explosives inside. The FBI has approximately 100 agents at the scene assisting with the investigation.
The FBI has revealed Holmes is a white male who is 6 feet, 3 inches tall and 24 years old, with a birth date of Dec. 13, 1987. Authorities have found no significant criminal record and no terrorist affiliations. Investigators suspect he acted alone.
A motive in the shooting is not yet known.
A San Diego, Calif., woman who identified herself as Holmes’ mother told ABC News she had not yet been contacted by authorities. She said she was unaware of the shooting and expressed concern that her son may have been involved.
“You have the right person,” she said, apparently speaking on instinct and not second-guessing her son would be involved. “I need to call the police … I need to fly out to Colorado.”
Holmes reportedly had Tennessee license plates on the vehicle he was driving at the time of the shooting, but a connection to that state remains unclear. He was arrested next to the vehicle, without incident, after the shooting spree ended. Police say he was wearing a bullet-resistant vest and gas mask at the time of the shooting and was armed with two long guns and a handgun.
As updates continue to trickle in, MSNBC reports that a survivor of the massacre in Colorado said she first thought the man dressed in black who entered through an exit door was part of the premier of the movie.