The James Holmes Trial Moves Forward To Phase 3, As Jurors Declare They Won't Rule Out The Death Penalty

CENTENNIAL, CO - JULY 23: Accused movie theater shooter James Holmes makes his first court appearance at the Arapahoe County on July 23, 2012 in Centennial, Colorado. According to police, Holmes killed 12 people and injured 58 others during a shooting rampage at an opening night screening of 'The Dark Knight Rises' July 20, in Aurora, Colorado. (Photo by RJ Sangosti-Pool/Getty Images)
Source: Pool/Getty Images News/Getty Images

Jurors have reached a decision in the second sentencing phase of James Holmes' trial. The jury found Holmes' guilty of 24 counts of first-degree murder and 140 counts of attempted murder — two counts for each of the 12 people he killed and the 70 people he injured in a movie theater in Aurora, Colorado, in 2012. Jurors have decided to move on to phase three of the trial for sentencing, which means the death penalty still remains an option for Holmes. Under Colorado law, jurors chose between moving death penalty proceedings forward into a third phase of the trial, or ending deliberations and sentencing Holmes to life in prison without parole, according to CNN. Jurors have chosen to move forward, which means they did not want to rule out the death penalty. 

Prosecutors asked the jury to continue the trial into its third phase and begin death penalty proceedings, while Holmes' attorneys asked the jury to give Holmes life in prison without parole and end the trial, which has been in session since April. Holmes' attorneys tried to paint him as the victim of schizophrenia, using his interview with a psychiatrist just after the shooting as proof that he was delusional. Holmes told the psychologist that "The dead can’t be repaired or come back to life or be normal again; it’s irreversible." When the psychologist asked him about the wounded, Holmes said, "They’re like collateral damage, I guess."

Public defender Daniel King told the jury that Holmes was a victim of an attacker in his own mind, citing his extended family's history with psychosis, according to the LA Times:

When James Holmes stepped into that theater in July 2012, he was insane. His mind had been overcome by a disease of the brain that had plagued him for years. In his words, 'I have fought for years to overcome my biology.' In the end, he lost that struggle with his mind to a disease, a disease called schizophrenia.

But the jury rejected these claims and went with Arapahoe County Dist. Atty. George Brauchler's version of who Holmes was. He painted Holmes as a cunning planner and a coward who wrapped himself in a bulletproof vest and took a Vicodin so he could avoid being hurt when he "tried to murder a theater full of people to make himself feel better."

As Judge Carlos A. Samour Jr. read the guilty verdict in July, members of victims' families cried out and pressed their faces into tissues, according to the Dallas Morning News. The court was relatively silent when the decision to move sentencing into phase three was read. The trial will continue for at least another few weeks.

Images: Getty Images (3)

Must Reads