CENTENNIAL, Colo. (AP) – Jurors in the Colorado theater shooting trial took a virtual tour of the auditorium where 12 people were shot to death, moving past bodies wedged between rows of seats or sprawled throughout aisles amid spent ammunition, spilled popcorn and blood.
They got their most detailed look yet at the crime scene Thursday, when prosecutors showed video footage taken by an investigator who walked throughout the entire movie theater, zooming in on bullet fragments, bloody stairs and shoes left behind in the panic to escape.
The 45-minute silent video capped the seventh week of the death penalty trial of James Holmes and came as still more survivors testified about the searing pain of bullet wounds, failed attempts to rescue their loved ones and the sight of a heavily armed figure dressed all in black.
The gallery was packed with victims and relatives as prosecutors dimmed the lights and showed the footage. The courtroom was silent except for an occasional sniffle or gasp. But once outside in the hallway, many hugged and cried.
Holmes has pleaded not guilty by reason of insanity to the July 2012 attack during a packed midnight showing of a Batman movie. At least 70 others were injured.
Among those in the theater that night was Julia Vojtsek, who came with her boyfriend, John Larimer, buying a Batman cape and T-shirt from Walmart while on the way. When the gunfire sounded, “John grabbed my head and pushed me to the ground,” Vojtsek testified Thursday. “He was protecting me.”
But he was hit, she said, describing how she wiggled out from beneath his lifeless body. Their friend, Bear Omundson, told jurors he tried to carry Larimer from the theater but failed in the rush to get out. He and another man left his body by the base of some stairs. It was the first of 10 that jurors saw in the video.
Other survivors offered their own gruesome stories. Farrah Soudani testified about bullets tearing through her abdomen. She recalled bending down and picking up her intestines, trying to hold them inside her before paramedics carried her out of the theater.
She had seven surgeries and a procedure on her stomach for injuries that included broken ribs, a collapsed lung, a hole in her stomach, burns and a gunshot that destroyed her left calf, which she showed jurors by pulling up her pant leg.
Holmes’ attorneys say he suffers schizophrenia and was in the grips of a psychotic episode at the time of the shooting. But earlier Thursday, his former girlfriend, Gargi Datta, told jurors she didn’t notice anything erratic about him in the months that they dated. But she urged him to talk to his therapist after he said he was having thoughts about killing people. She thought it was philosophical, but was worried.
“Initially I was just thinking he was messing with me, that he was joking,” said Datta, who pressed Holmes further about what he meant. “It didn’t make sense to me and it seemed a bit irrational.”
She did not know about his meticulous plans for the massacre or the weapons arsenal he began assembling after they broke up.
“I had no idea,” she said.
– By Sadie Gurman, AP Writer
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