CENTENNIAL, Colo. (CBS4) – The jury on Monday kept the death penalty a possibility for theater gunman James Holmes.
The jurors decided there are enough reasons to move forward to the third stage of the sentencing. That means the death penalty is still on the table. The jury will now hear from victims about the impact the shooting has had on their lives.
There were tears as the decision was announced from the families of the victims and from the defendant’s mother.
“The question, does the jury unanimously find beyond a reasonable doubt that the mitigating factors that exist do not outweigh the aggravating factors proven by the prosecution in Phase 1 of the sentencing hearing? The answer is yes,” Judge Carlos Samour said.
Holmes showed no reaction. On all counts the jury found that what happened at the movie theater three years ago outweighed the defense claim of mental illness.
Joshua Nowlan still uses a cane to walk after being shot in the arm and leg.
“Even if the jury decides to do life in prison or the death penalty phase I believe I’ll be happy with either decision — either way,” Nowlan told CBS4’s Rick Sallinger.
The defense claimed Holmes suffered from schizophrenia including psychotic delusions apparent in jailhouse video. But the prosecution insisted his rampage was the product of a breakup with his girlfriend and trouble at school.
CBS4 Legal Analyst Karen Steinhauser says the 12 deaths and 70 injuries was a tough hurdle to overcome.
“The defense had an uphill battle trying to convince the jurors that mental illness that the defendant had somehow outweighed the horrific nature of the crime,” Steinhauser said.
There are more tears to come. In the next phase family members of those who died will testify what the crime has done to their lives.
“We are going to hear a lot of sad stories. I anticipate there are going to be a lot of tears, not just from the families who are testifying, the family members, but probably from other people in the courtroom as well,” Steinhauser said.
The next phase of the trial begins Tuesday at 10 a.m. Sandy Phillips, the mother of Jessica Ghawi who died in the shooting, is among those to testify.
“There are some people that should get the death sentence, and if he is one of them, he is one of them,” Sandy Phillips said.
“If I had my way he would go to prison the rest of his life and not have to go through the appeals process where we have to look at his face and hear his name again,” Ghawi’s father Lonnie Phillips said.
The prosecution is expected to take two to three days to make its case in the next phase of the trial.