Which Aurora Shooting Victims Will Testify In James Holmes' Trial — And Do They Want The Death Penalty?
Almost three years ago, James E. Holmes entered the midnight premiere for "The Dark Knight Rises" at Aurora, Colorado's Century 16 movie theater wearing a gas mask and body armor. He was armed with tear gas and an array of pistols and rifles. He opened fire, killing 12 people and injuring 70. Holmes' trial for murder began Monday, and he will be tried on 166 counts of murder, attempted murder, and other offenses. Most survivors and their loved ones are nervous about the possibility that they could be called to testify, but they've said Holmes' trial at least means that closure is around the corner, according to The Guardian and the Los Angeles Times.
A jury of 12 people, chosen from a pool of roughly 9,000, will have to decide if the shooting on July 20, 2012 was a calculated mass killing or an act of insanity, according to The Guardian. Prosecutors are seeking the death penalty, but Holmes' attorneys are trying to prove that he was legally insane during the attack, which would commit him to a state hospital, according to The Guardian. Some of the survivors and their loved ones hope for the former punishment, while some have said that they don't know what to hope for. Either way, they are preparing to testify and finally allow their emotional scars to heal for good.
Among the first to testify will be Joshua Nowlan, who was shot through his right arm and left leg, according to the LA Times. Nowlan has had multiple surgeries, and a skin graft moved a tattoo on his left shoulder blade onto his right arm. He told the LA Times:
We just hope everything goes well with the trial. I'm not ready to talk about it. I testify Tuesday.
Eirz Scott told the LA Times that she doesn't plan to attend the trial unless her son and a survivor of the shooting, Jarell Brooks, is called to testify. Brooks was shot in the thigh while helping a young family escape Holmes' fire, according to the LA Times. Now, he's 22 years old and in college and he wants to be a lawyer. Scott said her son just wants to move on with his life. She told the LA Times that if the maximum penalty available is lethal injection, then she hopes that's the penalty Holmes' receives:
I hope he gets the maximum penalty that is necessary for him.
Some survivors hope that the trial shows just how long it takes to overcome a tragedy of this scale. Anita Busch, whose cousin Micayla C. Medek died in Theater 9 that night, helped establish the National Compassion Fund/Aurora, which pledges all donated money to victims in Theater 9 and Theater 8, where bullets that tore through the wall injured more people, according to the LA Times. Loved ones who knew Medek have gotten tattoos for the Hello Kitty fan in her memory. Busch told the LA Times that "America doesn't understand" just how hard it is for survivors:
People in America have no idea how bad it is behind the scenes after a mass shooting. The cameras will go. But the pain never leaves. People need help still.
Busch isn't the only person who feels that survivors and victims families aren't getting enough support. Tom and Caren Teves' son, Alex, died in the shooting after shielding his girlfriend from bullets. The 24-year-old had just earned his master's degree in counseling psychology. The Teveses told the LA Times they would be in the courtroom Monday, but refused to be interviewed for the story if it would include Holmes' name and photo. The Teveses have started a "No Notoriety" campaign, sending letters to 150 media executives last week, asking them to change the way they cover murders, according to the LA Times, whose editors also received a letter:
Remove or limit the name and likeness of the shooter, except for initial identification and when the alleged assailant is still at large. Elevate the names and likeness of all victims killed.
The trial will stir up horrible memories of that night for everyone, and, for some, they'll confront those memories for the duration of the trial. Sandy and Lonnie Phillips, whose daughter Jessica Ghawi died in the theater, moved to Colorado from their home in San Antonio so that they could attend the trial every day. They told News 4 San Antonio:
We feel we need to be there for the trial. It's important to us, at the end of the day, if we've been in court that we remind everyone that this is about the victims and survivors of that horrific night and not about the killer.
Regardless of why they're attending or even if they're ready, survivors and loved ones of those who died are hoping the trial will bring them closure. In the last three years, many of them have tried to rebuild the lives that were chipped and broken that night at the theater. Marcus Weaver was shot twice in the right shoulder and his friend, Rebecca Wingo, a single mother of two children, was killed. He told The Guardian that he goes back and forth between what he thinks Holmes' punishment should be, so he's going to leave that up to the jury and try to live his life:
The sound of that AR-15 rifle is the thing I can’t forget and the thing that keeps me up at night. ... I am OK with whatever happens. My happiness will not come from [the verdict]. It comes from seeing my wife every day. It comes from hanging out with my son. ... That’s where my happiness really comes from.
Images: Getty Images (4)