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

Louisiana Shooting Victims Named By Police

Mayci Breaux, 21 and Jillian Johnson, 33, the two victims of the movie theater shooting

The two people killed during a theater shooting in the Louisiana city of Lafayette were identified by police Friday.

Mayci Breaux, 21, was found dead at the scene while 33-year-old Jillian Johnson passed away after being taken to the hospital.

Of the nine people injured, police said two had been released from the hospital and the rest were still being cared for. One of those shot was in critical condition, according to officials.

Teacher Allister Viator Martin was among those taken to hospital, her uncle Durwood Viator confirmed to NBC News. “We don’t know what happened,” he said. “All we know…

Read the rest of the story from our partners at NBC News

Read next: 3 Dead After Shooter Opens Fire in Louisiana Movie Theater

Listen to the most important stories of the day

TIME Crime

Texting-In-Theater Shooting Suspect Expresses Remorse

"As soon as I pulled the trigger, I said, 'Oh, shoot,'" suspect Curtis Reeves told police

Updated at 6:25 p.m. EST on Friday, February 7

A Florida judge listened to audio recordings Friday of police interviews of a suspect who allegedly fatally shot another man for texting in a Wesley Chapel movie theater, just north of Tampa. In the interview, retired police captain Curtis Reeves said, “As soon as I pulled the trigger, I said, ‘Oh, shoot.'”

Reeves, 71, has been charged with second-degree murder in the death of Navy veteran Chad Oulson, 43, and was denied bail in a ruling late Friday afternoon. The confrontation began during the previews for Lone Survivor on Jan. 13 when Reeves asked Oulson to put away his cell phone. The ensuing confrontation ended with Oulson shot through the chest. Reeves has pled not guilty, and the judge will decide at the end of the bail hearing whether Oulson will be released pending trial, NBC News reports.

“If I had to do it over again, that would never happen,” Reeves said in police interviews that played in court Friday. “We would have moved. But you don’t get do-overs.” He added that his wife became upset at him after the incident. “She said, ‘We should have just moved.’ [To her] there’s no justification for what happened in there.”

Reeves told investigators that Oulson hit him with either his cellphone or his fist during the confrontation, and the defense offered two versions of a security video to prove that Oulson had been physically threatening Reeves. “It scared the hell out of me,” Reeves said. “He kept hollering. He led me to believe he was going to kick my ass.”

But both Reeves’ and Oulson’s wives said in their police interviews that they never saw Oulson hit Reeves. In Nicole Oulson’s interview she describes how she was wounded by the shot that killed her husband. According to her interview, Reeves told Oulson to turn off his phone, and her husband replied that he would “in a minute.” Reeves yelled at Oulson to “shut it off now” before leaving to get a manager.

When Reeves returned, Oulson had turned off his phone, but Reeves continued to hassle Oulson. “Now you put it away?” Reeves asked, according to Oulson’s widow. She says her husband then stood up and asked Reeves, “What’s your problem.” She added that she did not see her husband hit or physically threaten Reeves. She put her hand on her husband’s chest to ask him to sit down, at which point the shot rang out, injuring her and killing her husband.

According to Nicole Oulson, Reeves sat back down without trying to help Oulson. “He leaned back… didn’t try to help,” she said. “He just sat there as all the chaos was going on.”

This story has been updated with news that the suspect, Curtis Reeves, was denied bail.

[NBC]

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