CENTENNIAL, Colo. (CBS4)– The sentencing hearing for the Aurora theater gunman will begin on Monday and is expected to include emotional testimony from the survivors and the victims’ families.
The jury could not agree on the death penalty for James Holmes so he was sentenced to life in prison without the possibility of parole on Aug. 7. Jurors listened to 60 days of testimony spread over 15 weeks.
Karen Steinhauser, a Denver defense attorney and former prosecutor who also is CBS4’s legal analyst, explained the need for the hearing, “The sentencing with regard to the murder counts has already been handled by the jury. This sentencing hearing coming up will be addressing all of the other counts that the defendant was convicted of at the first stage of the trial.”
The sentencing hearing could last three days and is expected to be filled with emotional testimony. The prosecution plans to call approximately 100 victims and witnesses to testify with victim impact statements.
“The reason for the three days is that all 70 victims, under the Colorado Victim’s Bill of rights will have an opportunity to be heard, as they have a right to be heard in all stages of this case. The defense will also have an opportunity to allow for any people to speak on his behalf if they choose as well,” said Steinhauser.
After the victims and witnesses complete their statements, District Attorney George Brauchler will present a sentence argument. The defense also has a right to present additional mitigating information to the court regarding the convictions before sentencing.
Jurors convicted Holmes on July 16 on 24 counts of first-degree murder, two counts for each person murdered in the July 20, 2012 attack inside an Aurora movie theater. He was also convicted of attempted first-degree murder, two counts for each of the 67 people in theater 9 that he injured that night. He was also convicted of six counts of second-degree attempted murder for the three victims injured in theater 8 at the time of the attack.
Each of the murder counts for each victim must merge for purposes of sentencing, so the defendant must receive 12 life sentences in prison without the possibility of parole. Each of the 12 life sentences must be served consecutively according to Colorado law.
The minimum sentence for the attempted first-degree murder counts is 1,072 years in prison and maximum is 3,216 which must be served consecutive to the 12 consecutive life sentences.
The minimum sentence for the second-degree attempted murder counts is 30 years in prison and the maximum is 96 years in prison.
The total mandatory cumulative sentence range for 164 convictions is a minimum of 12 consecutive life sentences without parole plus 1,102 years in prison and the maximum of 12 consecutive life sentences without parole plus 3,318 years in prison.
Jurors heard from 306 witnesses and have seen more than 2,000 pieces of evidence during the trial.