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
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.
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