CENTENNIAL, Colo. (CBS4)– The jury will hear closing arguments in the final sentencing phase of the Aurora theater shooting trial on Thursday afternoon.
The judge will then give the jury final instructions and they will deliberate whether the gunman will be sentenced to death or spend the rest of his life in prison.
Last month the jury convicted James Holmes in the deaths of 12 people and injuring 70 others for the July 20, 2012 shooting inside the theater.
On Thursday morning, Holmes’ attorney Kristen Nelson has been trying to persuade the judge to change the wording of the jury instructions to their best advantage.
“We think it should say, ‘We the jury are unanimously convinced beyond a reasonable doubt that death is not the appropriate sentence on this count,'” said Nelson.
“I disagree. I think it should be as it appears,” said Judge Carlos A. Samour.
CBS4 Legal Analyst Karen Steinhauser, a Denver defense attorney and former prosecutor, weighed in on the amount of time it could be before the jury reaches a decision, “It’s hard to know just because the previous decisions have been easier in that one was ‘Are there aggravating factors that have been proved?’ the other ones, how do they weigh the aggravation versus the mitigation. Here they have to decide whether the person sitting in front of them lives or dies. And if just one person believes that death is not appropriate then he gets a life sentence.”
When asked by CBS4’s Rick Sallinger if we can conclude that with the previous decisions that they are going for the death penalty, Steinhauser answered, “The jurors have been thinking about this issue for a long time now and they do not have to deliberate in terms of agreeing unless they all agree that it should be a death sentence. I don’t think we can tell just because of the weighing that they did last time whether they are all going to believe that in the end the appropriate sentence is death. I think that remains to be seen and again, one person who thinks that’s not the case, means a life sentence.”
In Colorado the death penalty is conducted by lethal injection. The last time it was used was in 1994 for Gary Davis.
There are three people on death row in Colorado right now. Robert Ray and Sir Mario Owens for the killing of State Rep. Rhonda Fields’ son and his fiance. Nathan Dunlap is also on death row for the Chuck E. Cheese murders in 1993.