Movie Theater Killer Convicted of Murder, Eligible for Death Penalty

Photo: Andy Cross/The Denver Post/AP Photo.
Aurora theater shooting suspect James Holmes in court in Centennial, Colo.
James Eagan Holmes, the man who walked into a packed Aurora, CO, showing of The Dark Knight Rises and massacred 12 people, wounding 70 more, has been found guilty of murder. Holmes will be eligible for the death penalty.

The jurors reached the decision just after 3 p.m. today.

"Accept the mental illness," defense attorney Daniel King reportedly asked the jurors before closing. "Acknowledge the fact that the overwhelming evidence is that Mr. Holmes was in the throes of a psychotic episode. We can't separate the mental illness from him, or from this crime, because the mental illness is the sole reason for this crime taking place."

But the prosecutor in the case, George Brauchler, argued Holmes knew very well what he was doing when he burst into the theater heavily armed and began firing.
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...Mr. Holmes was in the throes of a psychotic episode. We can't separate the mental illness from him, or from this crime, because the mental illness is the sole reason for this crime taking place.

Daniel King, defense attorney for James Eagan Holmes

"He came there with one thing in his heart and his mind, and that was mass murder," Brauchler said. "That guy was sane beyond a reasonable doubt, and he needs to be held accountable for what he did."

Holmes pleaded not guilty by reason of insanity on June 4, 2013, just less than a year after the shooting. According to his attorney, he began to experience mental-health issues in middle school. Holmes says he has been depressed and obsessed with murder since the age of 14.

When Holmes entered the Aurora movie theater, he was 24. Certainly, 10 years is a long time to suffer. Today, the jury charged with Holmes' fate had to decide whether that suffering made him incapable of distinguishing right from wrong at the time of his crime. Under Colorado law, the inability to make such a distinction qualifies someone as insane.

He came there with one thing in his heart and his mind, and that was mass murder. That guy was sane beyond a reasonable doubt, and he needs to be held accountable for what he did.

George Brauchler, prosecutor


"Undoubtedly, the insanity plea is one of the most controversial defenses available in American criminal jurisprudence," Kathleen Bantley and Susan Koski wrote in "The Dark Knight Rises: An Examination of the Insanity Plea and James Holmes Case."

"Many people disfavor the insanity plea because they believe that it allows a guilty person to 'beat the rap' or 'get off easy,'" the two writers added.

Before today's verdict, Bantley and Koski said they had wondered how the public would react to Holmes' case, were he deemed not guilty. They cited mixed public appraisal of other notorious yet insane criminals, like John Hinkley, Lorena Bobbitt, and Andrea Yates.

It's an issue that is no longer valid, as Holmes faces both an overwhelming conviction and the ultimate punishment for his crime.
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