CENTENNIAL, Colo. (CBS4)– The sentencing phase of the theater shooting trial is expected to begin next week and could take several weeks, according to CBS4’s legal analyst.

“I would expect the sentencing phase, the death penalty phase in this case to be several weeks long. The prosecutor is going to be presenting evidence again from victims but talking about the effect that the defendant’s actions have had on their lives, on their families, on their ability to go forward,” said Karen Steinhauser, a Denver defense attorney and former prosecutor who also is CBS4’s legal analyst.

The defense is going to be doing everything in their power to convince the jury to spare their client’s life, trying to give the jury a sense of who this man is, who he was, perhaps before he became so ill. I think we’re still going to hear the issue of mental illness be a huge part of the death penalty phase.”

The jury delivered their verdict quickly on only the second day of deliberations. They rejected Holmes’ insanity defense and found him guilty of first-degree murder in the deaths of 12 people. Dozens of others were also injured in the shooting nearly three years ago.

Holmes, 27, showed no emotion as the verdict was read. He stood with his defense attorneys as it took Judge Carlos A. Samour an hour to read the verdict.

James Holmes learns he was convicted of first-degree murder, attempted first-degree murder charges in the Aurora theater shooting (credit: CBS)

James Holmes learns he is convicted in the Aurora theater shooting (credit: CBS)

The first phase of the sentencing will begin on Wednesday.

Steinhauser said she expects the defense in the sentencing phase of the trial will continue to argue that mental illness weighed Holmes down.

She also believes the death penalty will be tested, “I think it’s really up in the air as is the future of the death penalty in this state. We’ve seen a number of attempts by the legislature to look at changing the ability to be able to seek the death penalty. We have a governor right now who has questioned whether the death penalty is an appropriate sentence. We don’t know what future governors are going to do. We do know if the defendant is given the death penalty in this case we’re looking at maybe many, many years of appeals and many years of uncertainty as to whether if there is a death penalty if that would ever be carried out.”

There are three people on death row in Colorado, including Nathan Dunlap who killed four people in 1993.


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