James Holmes guilty in Aurora Colorado theater shooting; Jury did not believe insanity defense

Posted at 6:15 PM, Jul 16, 2015

The jury didn't believe James Holmes was insane when he shot and killed 12 people and injured 70 others in a crowded movie theater in Aurora, Colorado nearly three years ago.

After 46 days of emotional and sometimes graphic testimony, the jury of nine women and three men found Holmes guilty of all first-degree murder charges. They deliberated for less than 13 hours.

The verdict was read at 4:15 p.m. Thursday in a courtroom packed with victims' family members, friends, and news reporters. It took District Court Judge Carlos Samour Jr. 60 minutes to read the verdict on all 165 counts.

Holmes was found guilty on two counts of first-degree murder for each of the 12 victims killed in the July 20, 2012 mass shooting. The two counts for each slain victim were murder "after deliberation" and murder  "manifesting extreme indifference to the value of human life."   

Similarly, he was found guilty on two counts of attempted first-degree murder for each of the 67 survivors who were injured in Theater 9, where Holmes opened fire. He was found guilty of two counts of second-degree murder for each of the three additional survivors who were injured next door in Theater 8.

He was also found guilty on one count regarding the possession of an explosive or incendiary device for several home-made bombs he set up inside his nearby Aurora apartment.

The emotion of the trial -- its wrenching testimony and life-or-death stakes -- intensified as the verdict was read in the hushed courtroom.

Tearful jurors passed a box of tissue, while some of them looked straight at Holmes, 7NEWS reporter Marc Stewart said.

The defendant, who has frequently swiveled back-and-forth in his chair during the trial, stood still with his defense team as the judge read off one guilty count after another.  

Victims families, sitting together for support, also wept.

Tom Teves, whose son Alex Teves died in the shooting, made a fist as the guilty verdicts were read, so did Josh Nowlan, who was shot but survived the attack.

It was apparent throughout the trial that the jurors were focused on the testimony of psychiatrists and asking a lot of questions. But after hearing repeated examples of the gunman's deliberate planning, jurors ultimately decided that -- despite his diagnosed mental illness -- he was legally sane at the time of the shooting and he knew right from wrong.

"He leaves nothing to chance," District Attorney Brauchler said during his closing argument on Tuesday. "He's planned for all the contingencies and all of that planning goes to (his) intent."

Many of the jurors who have deliberated this verdict have an notable backgrounds. We learned Thursday that the foreman of the jury is a Columbine survivor. Another juror is related to a Columbine survivor. Other notable members of the panel include an attorney, a former victim's advocate and a physicist who specializes in explosives and competes in marksmanship.

Soon, the same jury will the hear the trial's penalty and sentencing phase -- which is in effect a mini trial. The prosecution will argue why Holmes' crimes warrant the death penalty and the defense and its experts will cite mitigating factors, especially the defendant's mental illness, in trying to persuade jurors to spare his life.

This phase will be even more emotional, with loved ones of those who were killed and victims who survived testifying about how the nightmarish night forever changed their lives. Meanwhile, Holmes' family and childhood friends will testify, attempting to humanize him and seek mercy for the defendant.

The jury returns on Wednesday to begin the penalty phase. It is expected to last one month. 7NEWS will continue to stream that portion of the trial, beginning on Monday.