TIME Travel

Your Guide to Marijuana Tourism in America

Recommendations for the classiest of cannabis connoisseurs

Four states and the District of Columbia have legalized marijuana for recreational use, but only Colorado and Washington have licensed dispensaries that can legally sell recreational cannabis. Since legalization and sale came to those communities, the budding pot industry in these two states has tried to shape a future of vineyard-esque tours of marijuana farms, and fatty-friendly salons reminiscent of Amsterdam’s cafes. (The phrase “Napa Valley of weed” gets tossed around a fair bit.)

In the meantime, Colorado and Washington still have a ways to go before pot tourism can flourish. Jeremy Bamford, who started the Colorado Pot Guide website in 2013, directs thousands of daily readers to 420 tours and “Bud & Breakfasts,” but official barriers remain. City and state tourism boards still shy away from promoting weed as an attraction, marijuana lounges are still against the law, and hotels tend to give a pretty firm reiteration of their no-smoking policies when you ask about, say, using a marijuana vaporizer in your room, or smoking a joint on your balcony. (Though a few have vague advertisements on Bamford’s site that provide neither their names nor their addresses.)

One of the problems when it comes to official support is the lack of hard numbers. Over the 4/20 holiday, says Bamford, Visit Denver took stock of hotel occupancy rates, and found they were no greater than on an average weekend. Which makes sense, he points out, because Denver’s weed pilgrims are booking cannabis-friendly accommodations instead. The ongoing stigma of marijuana usage among big-name hospitality brands “reflects a bit of a perception problem, because Colorado’s cannabis tourists actually tend to skew older,” says Bamford. This reefer madness mindset is causing hotels to turn away Terry Gross listeners, not Miley Cirus fans.

Still, marijuana-themed tours of Denver and Seattle continue to fill up, and the boom in recreational dispensaries in Colorado and Washington has produced a range of offerings, with highlights and must-sees for newbies and discerning connoisseurs alike.

  • Denver, Colorado

    Courtesy of Medicine Man

    Despite a lack of promotion from the Colorado Tourism Office, a handful of cannabis-themed tour operators have sprouted up in the Mile High City. For the most part, they don’t offer anything you couldn’t get into on your own, but the aim is to be “your Colorado friend who holds your hand and shows you this is real,” says Matt Brown, who founded My 420 Tours with business partner James Walker. What their company offers is easily the most complete of those guided experiences. In the four-hour Dispensary & Grow tour, which starts at $129, guests are loaded onto a tinted-windowed party bus (that will, throughout the day, intermittently be filled with pot smoke, the shine of green LEDs, and the soothing tones of John Denver’s “Rocky Mountain High”) and given a short marijuana user’s guide, outlining the differences between sativa and indica plants; the effects of THC and CBD; and the pros and cons of smoking methods, vaporizers, and edibles.

    After being treated to a mixture of those sampling options, guests are whisked off to the Native Roots Apothecary for some discounted weed shopping. Out-of-staters can buy up to a quarter ounce of marijuana at a time, but edibles, says Bamford, “are the more popular option, because of the novelty, and because people on the street don’t have to know that’s a weed cookie you’re eating.” Which helps, because public consumption of pot is still banned in the state. Luckily, Colorado’s new regulations on labeling and potency restrictions makes it easier than ever to stay at or below the state’s (very sensible) recommended dose of 10 milligrams of activated THC per edible serving.

    Next up is a tour of Medicine Man, one of the biggest commercial marijuana grow facilities in the U.S. After a somewhat forgettable but by that point pretty satisfying meal at the Icehouse Tavern, the tour ends at Illuzion Glass Gallery, a high-artistry head shop with an extensive selection of smoking paraphernalia and “functional glass art.”

    For $1,000, a full weekend excursion with My 420 Tours includes airport transportation and a two-hour cannabis cooking class (pot-infused pumpkin muffins, anyone?) with chef Blaine Alexandr of Conscious Confections, which can also be booked on its own for $129. The $1,000 weekend package also comes with two nights at the Denver Crowne Plaza and a Silver Surfer vaporizer on loan. Edibles aside, vaporizing is the only way you can legally consume marijuana in a hotel room, but even that is best done on the sly, with a pocket vaporizer, as the city’s hotels remain wary of marijuana use, and include it with general smoking bans when it comes to balconies, outdoor lounges, and plazas.

    Adam Jeffers

    If you’d like to smoke marijuana in your room, your best bet in Colorado (or anywhere else in the U.S.) is to search Airbnb or HomeAway for the words “420 friendly.” Otherwise, in downtown Denver, there’s the Adagio “Bud & Breakfast,” a 122-year-old Victorian house in the Wyman Historic District, which has a well-reviewed “420 Happy Hour” and on-site cannabis-infused massages, done with a “blend of unique oils high in THC, CBD, and CBN, utilizing a full cannabinoid spectrum and allowing for maximum healing potential.”

    If Cannabis concierges and “Puff, Pass, Paint” art classes aren’t really your speed, Denver has no shortage of recreational dispensaries and head shops you can visit on your own. For a relaxing, controlled buzz, try the Cherry Slider at LoDo Wellness, or for something more euphoric, order the Ed Rosenthal Super Bud at EuFlora. Both dispensaries are a short walk from the 16th Street Mall, Denver’s pedestrian-friendly shopping district.

  • Colorado

    Other noteworthy shops from Colorado’s early dispensary boom include Helping Hands, an all-organic dispensary in Boulder; Telluride Bud Company, the only dispensary in Telluride that grows all its weed in town; and Aspen’s STASH, where strains come with print-outs detailing soil nutrients and grow conditions. Maggie’s Farm, which is touted as Colorado’s only true outdoor marijuana grow, runs a handful of dispensaries throughout the state, but its Manitou Springs location is the most popular, due to its location at the foot of Pike’s Peak. It’s not hard to find a dispensary near any one of Colorado’s many national parks, but keep in mind that possession of marijuana on federal land is punishable by up to six months in jail and a $5,000 fine.

  • Seattle, Washington

    Courtesy of Cannabis City

    Seattle’s leader in kush tourism is Kush Tourism, a tour operator founded by Chase Nobles and Michael Gordon. For $150, they offer a three-and-a-half hour jaunt led by employees dressed in refreshingly non-stonerish khakis and polos. The education-focused tour includes a walkthrough of Sky High Gardens, a 30,000-square-foot growing facility on Harbor Island; a visit to Analytical360, a pot-testing lab; a demonstration at the Boro School of glassblowing, which also offer beginners classes where you make your own pipe; and Uncle Ike’s, a popular local pot shop. “You can get stoned anywhere in this country,” Nobles once told the Seattle Times. “Our tour’s more about education … we take you to see something you can’t otherwise see.” The menu at Uncle Ike’s changes fast, but a few current highlights are the Bettie Page, which offers a potent but clear high that is great for daytime smoking, and Champagne Kush, which has a refreshing, bubbly-reminiscent taste.

    Courtesy of Bacon Mansion

    If you’re stationed in Lower Queen Anne (Space Needle territory), Cannabis City, the first recreational marijuana store in the city, is another great place to buy weed. Short-term rental sites will be your best bet if 420-friendly accommodations are a must, but the Bacon Mansion, a Capitol Hill bed-and-breakfast, permits marijuana smoking on outside porches and patios, or the use of vaporizers indoors.

  • Washington

    Courtesy of The Evergreen Market

    Head outside Seattle, and you can check out the Evergreen Market, which offers a pretty awesome vision for what the weed dispensary could be, with modern fixtures, a generous, open floor plan with an industrial vibe, and hardly a pot-leaf insignia in sight. In Olympia, Green Lady Marijuana is an unassuming little pot shop with a great selection of edibles and discreet vaping pens. Spokane also has a fine selection of weed shops, including Satori, which is known for its friendly, knowledgeable staff and impressive selection.

    As of July of this year, recreational marijuana use is legal in Oregon, but production and retail licenses won’t be approved until January of 2016. (Alaska is in a similar situation.) Just across the Columbia River from Portland, however, you can spend a few hours touring the grow operation of farmer Tom Lauerman, the “Walt Whitman of weed,” in Bush Prairie, Washington. On the first tour, in June of 2014, Oregon Live reported that he “spoke with equal pride about his tasty sugar snap peas and his Chemdawg, a popular strain of marijuana,” and began the event “with an offer of a complimentary joint.”

    This article originally appeared on Travel + Leisure

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TIME Chris Christie

The Political Upside of Chris Christie’s Threats Against Colorado Pot Users

New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie (R) holds a town hall meeting at the American Legion Dupuis Cross Post 15 July 2, 2015 in Ashland, New Hampshire.
Darren McCollester—2015 Getty Images New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie (R) holds a town hall meeting at the American Legion Dupuis Cross Post 15 July 2, 2015 in Ashland, New Hampshire.

The upside and downside of going after weed

New Jersey Governor Chris Christie threatened users of marijuana who have been buying the drug legally under state law on Tuesday. “If you’re getting high in Colorado today, enjoy it,” he said, according to Bloomberg. “As of January 2017, I will enforce the federal laws.”

The blunt language ran against the tide of national public opinion, distinguished him from most of his colleagues in the Republican field, and could present problems in key states like Colorado and New Hampshire, where majorities support marijuana legalization. But pollsters say the straight talk might also offer him political upside, by appealing to conservative voters and separating him from his rivals.

An April Pew poll found that 53% of the country now supports marijuana legalization, including 39% of Republicans. On the question of whether the federal government should override state law to bust pot users, 59% of Americans, including 54% of self-identified Republicans, oppose the federal enforcement in states like Colorado.

In Colorado, a crucial 2016 swing state, the numbers are slightly more favorable for legal pot. According to a recent Quinnipiac University Poll, 62% of Colorado voters support recreational marijuana legalization. A poll done for the Denver Post shows how the supporters break down by political party: 66% of Democrats and 62% of Independents said they would vote to legalize marijuana in the state if the ballot came up again, while only 26% of Republicans said they would.

Christie’s tough stance could cut both ways in the primary and general campaign. “You can safely say in Colorado the decision to legalize marijuana is popular,” said Tim Malloy, assistant director of the Quinnipiac University Poll. “And when you walk in with a broad stroke saying I’m going to take this away, it could negatively affect Chris Christie.”

But Malloy said there’s a potential benefit to Christie’s strong stance, as well. Of the 16 Republican candidates, few others openly share Christie’s support of federal enforcement, though Florida Sen. Marco Rubio and South Caolina Sen. Lindsay Graham have tiptoed around it. Most candidates, from Florida Governor Jeb Bush to Texas Sen. Ted Cruz, instead say they would leave the question of routine marijuana enforcement up to the states. Their views are summed-up by former Hewlett-Packard CEO Carly Fiorina, who said, “I think Colorado voters made a choice. I don’t support their choice, but I do support their right to make that choice.”

So Malloy thinks that even if many voters disagree with Christie, his resolute stance on the issue makes him stand out from the rest of the field. “It’s certainly a bold, against the tide claim for Chris Christie,” Malloy said. “When you’re one of 16 and your star is not rising as it was a few years ago, what appears as a principled move could work in your favor.”

Christie has always been opposed to marijuana legalization, both politically and personally: “Never have. It wasn’t my thing,” he said of using the drug on a recent campaign swing.

Andrew Smith, director of the Survey Center at the University of New Hampshire, agreed with Malloy. “What all these guys need to do is separate themselves from the field,” he said. “Part of the way you do that is to distinguish yourself from the other candidates.”

Plus, according to Smith, there’s less of a political downside to being anti-pot in New Hampshire than there is in Colorado. “It’s not a major issue here,” he said, although a recent UNH poll showed 60% of New Hampshire voters support legalization, and 72% support decriminalization. “The libertarian voters, the voters in the Republican Party who are most likely to be proponents of marijuana legalization, first off they’re going to be less likely to vote… and if they are Republicans, they’re probably going to be more the libertarian Rand Paul supporters… There are enough older more conservative republicans, culturally conservative, that would support [Christie] on that.”

TIME Crime

Father of Colorado Theater Shooter Says He Was an ‘Excellent Kid’

James Holmes hearing
Andy Cross—Denver Post/Getty Images James Holmes, left, and his defense attorney, Daniel King, in court, June 04, 2013 for an advisement hearing at the Arapahoe County Justice Center.

"He's my son and we always got along very well"

(CENTENNIAL, Colo.) — The father of Colorado theater shooter James Holmes took the stand Tuesday as defense lawyers try to persuade jurors to spare his life.

Robert Holmes has attended every day of his son’s trial along with his wife, Arlene, but the couple has not spoken publicly since before the trial, when they begged for a plea deal to spare his life.

Holmes said he supports his son and still loves him, saying he was an “excellent kid.”

“Well he’s my son and we always got along very well,” he said when asked to explain.

Robert Holmes said he didn’t know about mental illness in the family until after his son killed 12 people and injured 70 others in the July 2012 attack on a movie theater audience in suburban Denver.

“I assumed he might be depressed,” but never knew his son had homicidal or suicidal thoughts after breaking up with a girlfriend and dropping out of school, Robert Holmes said.

While Holmes was found legally sane at the time of the attack, his defense is hoping at least one juror will agree that his mental illness reduces his moral culpability so much that he deserves the mercy of a life sentence instead.

Death sentences must be unanimous, and the judge has explained to jurors that their decision will be highly personal.

So the defense has a two-fold task during this phase of Holmes’ sentencing: They must show the jury that Holmes was deeply mentally ill, even if legally sane, and they must give jurors reasons to be merciful.

On the first point, the defense brought back the same court-appointed psychiatrist who found Holmes was legally sane during the attack, this time to say that it was severe mental illness that drove Holmes to kill.

“Having psychosis doesn’t take away your capacity to make choices. It may increase your capacity to make bad choices,” Dr. Jeffrey Metzner testified Monday. “He acted on his delusions, and that’s a reflection of the severity of his mental illness.”

On the second, they introduced a series of friends and family to show that even this killer was loved once, and has people who still care for him.

Lori Bidwell recalled Tuesday how “Jimmy” helped celebrate Halloween with them each year in California. She said he was quiet, smart and good-humored. The families went rafting together when Holmes was 21, and Bidwell recalled how he laughed and watched sea otters.

“When I first heard it on the news, I called because I thought this can’t be possible,” said Bidwell said.

A college friend, Harry Soren Carr, described Holmes as introverted, but with a self-deprecating sense of humor, and said he didn’t make fun of other people.

Chris Holmes, 22, became the first in her family to testify on Monday. She described a jail visit two years after the attack, saying he was no longer the loving brother who protected her as they were growing up.

“His whole demeanor seemed different,” she said. “His eyes, they were almost bugging out of his head.”

But she still loves him, she said, and will still visit, and probably send him a birthday card each year in prison. “It will be up to me when my parents pass away, so I do want to do that.”

Holmes’ lawyers say the once-promising neuroscience student should get life without parole rather than be executed for the 12 murders. He also injured 70 others at the crowded midnight movie in July 2012.

Holmes had no visible reaction to his sister, who sat just feet from the defense table where he has been tethered to the floor.

TIME Crime

Jurors Deliberate Death Penalty for Colorado Theater Shooter

The shooting killed 12 people and injured 58 others

(CENTENNIAL, Colo.)€” — The jurors who convicted James Holmes of murder in the Colorado theater shooting were taking more time than expected Thursday to decide whether prosecutors passed the first legal test for a death sentence.

Prosecutors said they proved several of the required “aggravating factors” in these murders beyond a reasonable doubt: That Holmes harmed an outsized number of victims when he opened fire at the midnight Batman movie premiere; that he killed a child, and that the attack was particularly heinous.

They said Holmes wanted to murder as many as he could in the audience of more than 400 people but failed to kill more than 12 because his assault rifle jammed.

The defense offered no counter-argument, effectively conceding that at least one factor justifying death was evident in the crime, but jurors went home without a verdict on this point and resumed deliberations Thursday.

Prosecutor Rich Orman on Wednesday showed jurors photos of each person killed and read their names — bringing some of their relatives in the courtroom to tears. Holmes deliberately and cruelly killed all of them, including 6-year-old Veronica Moser-Sullivan who “had four gunshot wounds to her little body,” Orman said.

Orman reminded jurors that Holmes threw tear gas and sprayed so much gunfire that even moviegoers hiding behind seats couldn’t avoid being hurt.

“The victims were unaware of any danger, watching a movie, in a theater, a place of joy and of safety,” he said. “The victims died surrounded by screaming, by pain and by anguish.”

The judge clarified for the jurors that the killing of a child under 12 doesn’t, by itself, qualify as an aggravating factor; prosecutors must have proved that Holmes intended to kill the child. Jurors then reviewed three videos and an audio recording. In one, a dazed-looking Holmes asked police: “There weren’t any children hurt, were there?”

Assuming jurors agree that the nature of the crime justifies the death penalty, the defense will lead the next phase, trying to show that his mental illness and other “mitigating factors” make it wrong to execute him.

Jurors would then deliberate for a second time, deciding whether the extent of his mental problems outweighs the lifelong suffering Holmes caused. If so, the trial would end there, with a life sentence instead of the death penalty.

If not, the sentencing will move into a third and final phase, in which victims and their relatives would describe the impacts of Holmes’ crimes.

While the jury will decide the murder sentences, Colorado law already establishes the penalties for his convictions on attempted murder and other charges. Holmes wounded 58 people and 12 others were injured in the chaos of the attack.


Associated Press writer Dan Elliott in Denver contributed to this story.

TIME Marijuana

First-ever TV Pot Ad Yanked by Colorado Station

Marijuana Supporters March In Hemp Parade
Sean Gallup—Getty Images A man smokes licenced medicinal marijuana.

Plans were cancelled due to legal concerns

Monday was almost a landmark day in marijuana legalization books: what is said to be the first ever TV ad for recreational marijuana was scheduled to be broadcasted on an ABC affiliate in Denver, where state law allows recreational pot use.

But the plans were cancelled on Friday due to legal concerns, according to the Denver Post.

The advertisement for the recreational marijuana company Neos doesn’t explicitly show or mention marijuana, using words such as “relax” and “recreate” instead of “toke up.” It seems to appeal to a broad demographic of young adults, showing footage of people hiking, partying, and camping. The advertisement encourages viewers to “now enjoy the best effects and control with Neos portable vape pen and recreate discreetly this summer.” Viewers are also encouraged to “recreate responsibly.” You can watch the ad here.

Even though the ad leaves the drug out, E.W. Scripps Company, which owns the local station, voiced concerns that the legalities of advertising a state-allowed — but federally-forbidden — substance are muddy, given that the federal government regulates the airwaves. “We are proud to be a company of free speech and open expression, but we have concerns about the lack of clarity around federal regulations that govern broadcast involving such ads,” a spokeswoman, Valerie Miller, told CNN Money.

Marijuana advocates have faced problems like this before on account of the clash between state and federal law. In June, the Colorado Supreme Court issued a ruling for an quadriplegic employee who was fired for using medical pot outside of work, even though medical marijuana was legal at the time. The court ruled that the company, Dish Network, could fire the employee because his self-medication still violated federal law.

TIME Accident

Hiker Killed by Lightning Strike in Colorado

Three more injured in Rocky Mountains tragedy

A lightning strike Friday in the Rocky Mountains killed one hiker and injured three more.

The hiker who was killed was a 31-year-old woman from the Denver area hiking Colorado’s Mount Yale Trail. Two other injured hikers navigated to the base of the mountain independently, while a third was airlifted to the hospital in Colorado Springs.

Rescue attempts were complicated by a variety of factors; there is no cellular service in the area where lightning struck, so a 911 call was delayed until witnesses made it further downhill. Responders were also delayed due to the steepness of the trail.

TIME Colorado

Remembering Those Who Died in the Colorado Movie Theater Massacre

The dead included a Navy veteran and an aspiring sports broadcaster

(CENTENNIAL, Colo.)—Twelve people were killed and dozens of others were wounded while attending a midnight movie premiere July 20, 2012, at a theater in the Denver suburb of Aurora. Here’s a look at those who died:


Blunk was a 26-year-old father of two young children. He was a Navy veteran, and friends said he served three tours in the Persian Gulf and North Arabian Sea and hoped to re-enlist to become a Navy SEAL. His girlfriend, Jansen Young, who was injured in the theater shooting, testified that Blunk threw himself in front of her and saved her life. He tried to push her underneath the seats.

“He said, ‘Jansen, we have to get down and stay down,'” she said.

Blunk lived in Aurora, working for a small flooring company. His estranged wife and their two children lived in Reno, Nevada.



Boik was 18 and just graduated from Gateway High School in Aurora. He was to start classes at the Rocky Mountain College of Art and Design in the fall of 2012.

Gateway Principal Bill Hedges said Boik planned to become an art teacher. Friends said he was known for making them laugh.

“He was a ball of joy,” his friend Jordan Crofter said. “He was never sad or depressed. He wanted everybody to be happy.”

Boik went to the movie with his girlfriend, Lasamoa Cross, who testified that the couple snapped a photo of themselves just before the show started, with Boik wrapping his arm around her shoulders. The two had been excited to see the show, so “it was a big moment,” she said.

When the shooting started, Boik told Cross they needed to leave, she said. They took just two steps before he hit the ground.



Childress, 29, was an Air Force staff sergeant and a cyber-systems operator at Buckley Air Force Base in Aurora. He went to the movie with friends, including Munirih Gravelly, who was injured.

“He would help anyone and always was great for our Air Force unit,” Tech Sgt. Alejandro Sanchez said shortly after the shootings. Sanchez and Childress belonged to the same unit.

Gravelly had worked with Childress at Buckley for about a month, and they were becoming friends. They decided to go to the movie with two other friends.

“I was really looking forward to working with him, and he was gone, just like that,” Gravelly told The Associated Press. “If Jesse hadn’t been sitting where he was, I would have been dead. He saved my life, pretty much.”



Cowden, 51, lived in Aurora and owned a business. He went to the movie with his two teenage daughters, who escaped the theater unharmed.

“A quick-witted world traveler with a keen sense of humor, he will be remembered for his devotion to his children and for always trying his best to do the right thing, no matter the obstacle,” Cowden’s family said after his death.

One of his daughters, Brooke Cowden, testified that she had spent the day with her father, baking cookies and running with him as they sometimes did. She recalled her father telling her he loved her just before he died.



Ghawi, 24, moved to Colorado in 2011 and hoped to be a sports broadcaster. She survived a shooting at a Toronto mall just a few weeks before she died in Aurora.

She posted on a blog that the experience showed her “how fragile life was.”

A friend, Brenton Lowak, went to the movie with Ghawi and was injured. Lowak testified that he and Ghawi spent the day by her pool before she persuaded him to go to the theater.

When he realized Ghawi was shot, he said he prayed over her body and “tried to give her the best send-off I could.”

Former colleagues described Ghawi as ambitious and hardworking. Her mother, Sandy Phillips, attended the trial daily, always wearing Ghawi’s green scarf.

“I get hugs from her every day if I wear it, so I wear it every day,” she told reporters.



Larimer, 27, went to the movie with his girlfriend, Julia Vojtsek. When they heard gunfire, “John grabbed my head and pushed me to the ground,” Vojtsek testified. “He was protecting me.”

Larimer was a Navy petty officer 3rd class who worked as a cryptologic technician at Buckley Air Force Base. “A valued member of our Navy team, he will be missed by all who knew him,” Cmdr. Jeffrey Jakuboski, his commanding officer, said in a written statement.



McQuinn, 27, and his girlfriend, Samantha Yowler, worked at a Target store after moving to Colorado from Ohio the previous fall.

McQuinn had an early morning shift the next day, but they decided to go to the movie anyway.

When the shooting started, McQuinn dived in front of his girlfriend and her brother, Nick Yowler, said Rob Scott, an attorney representing the two families.

McQuinn had talked about plans to move back to Ohio to work at a car parts factory near St. Paris; perhaps he would marry Yowler. He was homesick after struggling for a year to find full-time work in Colorado, his mother, Jerri Jackson, said after the shooting.



Medek was 23 and was attending community college classes while working at a Subway sandwich shop. She went to the movie with about 10 friends.

Medek was an independent-minded and sweet girl who rarely asked her family for anything, her aunt, Jenny Zakovich, has said.

“She was one who wouldn’t hurt anybody,” Zakovich said. “She was a very loving person.”



Six-year-old Veronica was the youngest person killed in the attack. Her mother, Ashley Moser, thought she was taking her daughter to a cartoon movie and worried Veronica would be frightened when she realized it was an action movie, friends said.

Moser testified that she stood up to take her daughter out of the theater when the shooting started, but Veronica’s hand slipped out of hers.

Moser said she then felt a pain in her chest and fell on top of her daughter, unable to move. Moser was left paralyzed and suffered a miscarriage.



Sullivan went to the movie to celebrate his 27th birthday and his first wedding anniversary. “Alex was a gentle giant, known and loved by so many,” his family said. “He always had a glowing smile on his face and he made friends with everyone. Alex enjoyed all sorts of movies, was an avid comic book geek and loved the New York Mets.”

Sullivan had gone to the theater with a big group of friends and co-workers from a Red Robin restaurant. When a trailer for a new Superman movie showed, Sullivan stood up and shouted, “Yeah!” prompting others in the audience to clap and cheer.



Teves, 24, had just earned a master’s degree in counseling psychology. His girlfriend, Amanda Teves — who changed her last name to Teves after the shooting — testified they went to the movie with a large group of friends. When the gunfire began, Alexander Teves dived onto her to protect her, Amanda said.

“He just kept shushing me and telling me it was going to be all right,” she said. When she realized someone in their group had been shot, she screamed his name but heard no response. A friend yelled that they needed to leave, so Teves grabbed her boyfriend’s hand. “I wanted to try to take him with me,” she said.

Teves’ parents, Caren and Tom Teves, have urged news organizations to focus more on the victims and less on the gunman.



Wingo, 32, was the single mother of two daughters. An Air Force veteran, she had started a job several months before the shooting as a customer relations representative at a mobile medical imaging company. “If she put her mind to something she was going to get it done,” a friend, Cody Shafer, said. “What an example she set for her little girls.”

Wingo had recently started spending time with Marcus Weaver, and the two went to the theater together. Weaver, who was wounded in the shooting, said he tried to protect her the best he could.

TIME Crime

6 Things to Know About Aurora Movie Theater Shooter James Holmes

He faces the death penalty after being convicted in the deadly attack

A jury found Colorado movie theater shooter James Holmes guilty of murder on Thursday, just days ahead of the three-year anniversary of an attack that left 12 dead and 70 wounded.

Holmes, 27, whose not-guilty plea by reason of insanity was rejected by jurors, was charged with 24 counts of first-degree murder and 140 counts of attempted murder for the 2012 rampage in Aurora, Colorado. Yet the high-profile trial isn’t over: The same jury that delivered the long-awaited verdict must now decide whether Holmes will pay with his life.

Here’s what you need to know about Holmes.

He never denied he was the shooter.

Holmes’ pleading of not guilty by reason of insanity means that he “stopped just short of a confession,” the Denver Post reported in 2013. That year, his attorneys also explicitly admitted for the first time that Holmes was indeed the Aurora theater shooter.

Holmes also reportedly “confessed” shortly after the attack. While in custody, Holmes told Aurora police officers that he was “the Joker,” the chief villain in the film The Dark Knight Rises, which moviegoers had been watching when Holmes opened fire.

He was never going to just walk away

Had Holmes not been found guilty by reason of insanity, he would’ve likely spent the rest of his life in a mental institution, according to NBC.

The odds were against Holmes. U.S. courts have often rejected insanity pleas rather quickly, as was the case in the “American Sniper” trial that found former Marine Cpl. Eddie Ray Routh guilty in fewer than two hours. Other insanity pleas have been rejected in under an hour. Holmes’ verdict was delivered after 13 hours over two days.

Court-appointed doctors agreed Holmes suffered from mental illness—but disagreed over whether he was insane during the attack

Two court-appointed psychiatrists testified in May that Holmes indeed suffered from mental illness, but was sane on the day he conducted the attack, the Associated Press reports.

For evidence, prosecutors pointed to a notebook Holmes had written in before the attack, in which he describes his “obsession to kill” and plan for the rampage, including a list of weapons and pros and cons of which auditorium to attack. Holmes had mailed the notebook to his psychiatrist at the University of Colorado eight days before the shooting, though the package was not discovered until several days after the massacre.

Holmes did not testify

Near the end of his trial, Holmes said he had chosen not to testify, which would have allowed him to respond to questions from jurors. Still, jurors were able to review over 22 hours of videotaped interviews between Holmes and a court-appointed psychiatrist, which took place in 2014.

He is a self-described “quiet and easygoing person”

That’s how he described himself on an apartment rental form one year before the shooting. At the time, Holmes had been a Ph.D. candidate in neuroscience at the University of Colorado. He had no criminal record and was not on any watch list.

Before that, Holmes had graduated from the University of California, Riverside, where his classmates described him in the wake of the shooting as a “reclusive” student, but “not in a threatening way.” One student recalled how Holmes skipped graduation, even though he had completed his degree with top honors.

The court expects to decide on the death penalty by Labor Day

The death penalty phase of the trial will last about one month, according to NBC-affiliate 9 News in Denver. Jurors hope to return a decision by Labor Day.

TIME Colorado

Colorado Theater Shooter James Holmes’ Murder Trial Far From Over

The trial enters a new phase as the jury decides whether Holmes should die for his crimes

(CENTENNIAL, Colo.)— Families of the 12 people James Holmes killed and the scores he injured in a packed movie theater were relieved that jurors only needed 12 hours to reject the idea that he was legally insane when he opened fire.

Now the trial enters a new phase as the jury decides whether Holmes should die for his crimes.

Starting next week, jurors will hear testimony about Holmes’ mental illness and his childhood. Prosecutors may counter with even more heartbreaking accounts from victims, ranging from those Holmes maimed to the father of his youngest victim, a 6-year-old girl who died in the 2012 attack.

There was a muted, heartbroken sense of relief Thursday afternoon following Holmes’ conviction on 165 counts of murder, attempted murder and other charges. Victims wept and comforted one another in the courtroom during the hour-long recitation of each verdict, holding hands and nodding their heads with satisfaction when their loved one’s names were read.

“We’re all really happy he’s guilty, but we’re all really sad to be here,” said Katie Medley, whose husband, Caleb, uses a wheelchair after being shot in the head during the attack.

The verdict came after 2 1/2 years of legal skirmishing between prosecutors and Holmes’ public defenders and 11 months of grueling testimony. The upcoming sentencing phase could easily take another month.

“I’m glad we’re at this point, but at the same time, we have a long way to go,” said Marcus Weaver, who was injured in the attack and whose friend Rebecca Wingo was killed.

Experts say the sentencing phase could prove even more emotionally wrenching as survivors describe the impact of the shooting on their daily lives. It will be a harder decision for jurors, who will have fewer instructions to guide them, said defense attorney Karen Steinhauser, who is not involved in the Holmes case. That jurors swiftly rejected Holmes’ insanity defense doesn’t mean they’ll come to a speedy conclusion about his punishment.

“They’re going to have to decide, for someone who is mentally ill, if a death sentence is the right punishment,” she said. “It ends up being a much more personal decision.”

If just one juror disagrees with a death sentence, Holmes, 27, will be sent to prison for life.

For almost an hour Thursday, Judge Carlos A. Samour Jr. read charge after charge, reciting the name of the victim, the offense and the word “guilty.” Dressed in a blue shirt and khakis, and flanked by his public defenders, Holmes stood impassively with his hands in his pockets the whole time.

The rest of the courtroom was bursting with emotion. Even before the verdict was read, jurors passed around a box of tissues and dabbed their eyes. The foreman attended Columbine High School during the 1999 shooting there that left 13 dead.

When Samour read the first finding — that Holmes was guilty of first-degree murder for killing Jonathan Blunk, a 26-year-old father of two who shielded his girlfriend from the gunfire — many victims’ families burst into sobs, trying to stifle the noise by pressing tissues to their noses and mouths.

When Samour read the name of another murder victim, Jessica Ghawi, her mother, Sandy Phillips, silently mouthed “yes,” and her husband wrapped his arm around her to pull her close.

“We’re very happy this animal, this monster, will never see the light of day,” Phillips said later outside court. “It feels good to have this weight off our backs.”

Holmes’ parents, Arlene and Robert, sat silently holding hands throughout the verdicts. After the final count was read, Arlene buried her face in Robert’s shoulder.

The verdict came three years after Holmes, dressed head to toe in body armor, slipped through the emergency exit of the darkened suburban Denver theater and replaced the Hollywood violence of “The Dark Knight Rises” with real human carnage.

The trial offered a rare glimpse into the mind of a mass shooter, as most are killed by police, kill themselves or plead guilty.

Prosecutors argued that Holmes knew exactly what he was doing when he methodically gunned down strangers as they fled. They painted him as a calculated killer who sought to assuage his failures in school and romance with a mass murder that he believed would increase his personal worth.

He snapped photos of himself with fiery orange hair and scrawled his plans in a spiral notebook he sent his psychiatrist just hours before the attack, all in a calculated effort to be remembered, prosecutors said.

The prosecution called more than 200 witnesses over two months, more than 70 of them survivors, including some who were missing limbs and using wheelchairs. They recalled the panic to escape the black-clad gunman.

The youngest to die was 6-year-old Veronica Moser-Sullivan, whose mother suffered a miscarriage and was paralyzed in the attack.

Holmes was arrested in the parking lot as survivors were still fleeing, and he warned police he had rigged his nearby apartment into a potentially lethal booby trap, which he hoped would divert first responders from the theater.

Holmes’ lawyers argued that he suffers from schizophrenia and was in the grip of a psychotic breakdown so severe that he was unable to tell right from wrong — Colorado’s standard for insanity. They said he was delusional even as he secretively acquired the three murder weapons and concealed his plans from friends and two worried psychiatrists.

The defense called a pair of psychiatrists, including a nationally known schizophrenia expert, who concluded Holmes was psychotic and legally insane.

But two state-appointed doctors found otherwise, testifying for prosecutors that no matter what Holmes’ mental state was that night, he knew what he was doing was wrong.

Jurors watched nearly 22 hours of videotaped interviews in which Holmes, using short, reluctant answers, said he felt nothing as he fired, blasting techno music through his earphones to drown out his victims’ screams.


Associated Press writers Ivan Moreno, Kristen Wyatt and Colleen Slevin in Denver contributed to this report.

Read more TIME coverage of the Aurora Theater Shooting:

Eyewitness Accounts of the Aurora ‘Batman’ Shooting

Who is James Holmes?

Portrait of a Suburb: Aurora Gets on the Map — But Not the Way It Wanted

TIME Crime

Jury Hears Closing Arguments in Aurora Theater Shooting Trial

James Holmes
Arapahoe County Sheriff/AP A photo of James Holmes from 2012

It has been almost 3 years since the shooting took place at a movie theater in July 2012

(CENTENNIAL, Colo.) — Attorneys in the Colorado theater shooting trial got one last chance Tuesday to convince jurors that gunman James Holmes was either a cold, calculating killer or a man so overcome by psychosis that he could no longer tell right from wrong.

Closing arguments in the first phase of Holmes’ death penalty trial began Tuesday afternoon, nearly three years to the day since he slipped into a darkened midnight movie premiere and opened fire, killing 12 and wounding 70 others.

The arguments had been scheduled to start earlier in the day but were delayed after the defense said some of the slides prosecutors planned to show jurors were improper. District Attorney George Brauchler defended the images.

Judge Carlos A. Samour Jr. ordered Brauchler to change or delete some of the slides, saying they misstated the evidence or made overbroad allegations. The judge allowed Brauchler to keep other slides, including one that referred to Holmes wearing a “kill suit” during the shootings.

Dozens of victims and family members were in the courtroom, and some wept as Samour read the names of the dead and wounded while he gave the jury his instructions. Sandy Phillips wore a green scarf that belonged to her daughter, Jessica Ghawi, who was killed.

Holmes’ parents, Robert and Arlene Holmes, sat on the opposite side of the courtroom from the victims. Seated with them was Bob Autobee, who spoke out against the death penalty when his son, a prison guard, was killed by an inmate. Autobee shook Robert Holmes’ hand and hugged Arlene Holmes.

James Holmes, now 27, does not dispute that he was the lone gunman. He pleaded not guilty by reason of insanity, setting the stage for the death penalty trial that included more than 250 witnesses, many of them wounded survivors of the attack on July 20, 2012.

Prosecutors and defense attorneys have two hours each to make their cases. They will try to help jurors make sense of thousands of pieces of evidence and nearly three months’ worth of testimony. With that information, it will be up to the jury to decide whether prosecutors met their burden of proving Holmes was legally sane.

Prosecutors will paint Holmes as a meticulous killer who knew exactly what he was doing when he methodically planned his assault on the theater to assuage his failures in graduate school and romance.

They will focus on the testimony of two state-appointed forensic psychiatrists who evaluated Holmes months and years after the shooting and determined that, despite severe mental illness, he was capable of knowing right from wrong and therefore legally sane under Colorado law. One of the doctors, William Reid, showed jurors nearly 22 hours of sometimes chilling videotaped interviews in which Holmes haltingly describes taking aim at fleeing moviegoers and longing to kill others to increase his own self-worth.

Holmes spent months amassing an arsenal of weapons and body armor. He scrawled detailed plans for the massacre in a spiral notebook, weighing which auditoriums in the Aurora theater complex would allow for maximum carnage.

Prosecutors will point to the elaborate ways in which Holmes rigged his 800-square-foot apartment into a potentially lethal booby trap that he hoped would divert police and paramedics from the theater as he set about his attack. Holmes hid his plans from everyone, including a university psychiatrist to whom he mailed his notebook just before the attack.

And prosecutors will not let jurors forget the human toll of the shooting. They called more than 70 survivors who described the terrifying sight of the black-clad gunman, the searing pain of bullet wounds and the anguish of leaving loved ones behind in the panic to escape.

Defense attorneys will present Holmes as a struggling neuroscience student who was on the brink of mental collapse well before he acted on increasingly powerful delusions that told him to kill. They called to the stand mental health professionals who analyzed Holmes and found him suffering an array of illnesses, from schizophrenia to full-blown psychosis.

Their strongest witness was Raquel Gur, a nationally known schizophrenia expert who interviewed Holmes for 28 hours and said his thoughts about killing other people became an uncontrollable storm in his mind in the months before the shooting. She and another psychiatrist declared him legally insane. The shooting would not have happened if not for Holmes’ psychosis, Gur said.

The doctors said Holmes had struggled with mental illness since childhood, seeking a career in neuroscience to better understand what he described in his notebook as his “broken mind” and a list of self-diagnoses.

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