Skip to main content

LATEST UPDATES: Tracking COVID-19 | Transfer Of Power | Racial Justice

Jurors Start Deliberating In Colorado Theater Shooting Case

Jurors in the trial of Aurora theater shooting suspect, James Holmes, will he...

Photo by Andy Cross AP

Above: Jurors in the trial of Aurora theater shooting suspect, James Holmes, will hear differing expert opinions about whether Holmes was legally insane at the time of the shooting.

We're sorry. This audio clip is no longer available.

One after the other, their faces flashed on an overhead screen: the aspiring sports broadcaster, the caring dad, the smiling 6-year-old girl a prosecutor described as "forever our kindergartner."

Photos of the 12 people who died in the Colorado theater shooting were the last images jurors saw before they started deliberating Wednesday over whether the gunman, James Holmes, was legally insane when he opened fire on a crowded midnight movie premiere. Within 30 minutes, the group of nine women and three men requested a whiteboard.

In closing arguments Tuesday, District Attorney George Brauchler kept the focus on the shooting's heavy toll on victims, weaving their stories into a larger narrative that tried to show Holmes was legally sane when he carried out the attack almost three years ago.

But defense attorney Daniel King presented Holmes, now 27, as a kind of victim himself, of schizophrenia so consuming he was unable to tell right from wrong when he slipped into the auditorium and started shooting, injuring another 70 before his gun jammed and he surrendered. King showed jurors images of Holmes looking dazed and sullen with fiery orange hair after the July 20, 2012, attack.

Defense attorneys are asking for a verdict of not guilty by reason of insanity, which would send Holmes to the state mental hospital for an indefinite commitment. Prosecutors say Holmes should be convicted of murder and executed.

Many of the victims and family members in the courtroom wept as Brauchler showed their photos. Josh Nowlan, who was shot in the leg and walks with a cane, covered his eyes with his hands and shook.

Brauchler told jurors the victims went to the suburban Denver theater that night to see a movie about a hero who fought for justice. Instead, a different person appeared near the screen.

"He came there with one thing in his heart and his mind, and that was mass murder," Brauchler said.

King urged the jurors to set aside the deeply emotional impact of the massacre.

"When he stepped into that theater, the evidence is clear that he could not control his thoughts, that he could not control his actions, and that he could not control his perceptions," King said.

Both sides are trying to help jurors make sense of thousands of pieces of evidence and more than 250 witnesses who testified in the 11-week trial. With that information, it will be up to the jury to decide whether prosecutors met their burden of proving Holmes was legally sane.

"We're praying the jury does the right thing, praying to God," said Rena Medek, whose daughter, Micayla Medek, died in the shooting. Rena Medek attended the trial daily with Micayla's grandmother, Marlene Knobbe.

Sandy Phillips' daughter, Jessica Ghawi, also was killed.

"Just because the trial is over, it's not over for us," Phillips said. "It's never going to be over for the 12 families who lost their loved ones in that theater."

Jurors Start Deliberating In Colorado Theater Shooting Case

FEATURED PODCAST

San Diego News Now podcast branding

San Diego news; when you want it, where you want it. Get local stories on politics, education, health, environment, the border and more. New episodes are ready weekday mornings. Hosted by Anica Colbert and produced by KPBS, San Diego and the Imperial County's NPR and PBS station.

  • Need help keeping up with the news that matters most? Get the day's top news — ranging from local to international — straight to your inbox each weekday morning.

This site is protected by reCAPTCHA and the Google Privacy Policy and Terms of Service apply.

Midday Edition banner

KPBS Midday Edition is a daily radio news magazine keeping San Diego in the know on everything from politics to the arts.

Want more KPBS news?
Find us on Twitter and Facebook, or sign up for our newsletters.

To view PDF documents, Download Acrobat Reader.