Defense, DA argue reasons to spare Colorado gunman's life
CENTENNIAL, Colo. (AP) -- Defense lawyers for James Holmes made one more appeal for mercy Thursday, urging jurors to consider mental illness in his sentencing even though they rejected his insanity claim when they convicted him of murdering 12 people and trying to kill 70 others at a Colorado movie theater.
"It was not about notoriety, it was not about hatred. It was about the delusion," attorney Tamara Brady said.
"The stressors triggered his psychosis, the psychosis caused him to be delusional, and come up with this plan to shoot people in this theater," she said. "No one has said that Mr. Holmes is malingering or faking or exaggerating psychiatric symptoms. He is indisputably mentally ill."
Brady said prosecutors tried to explain the "random and senseless crime" with a theory that Holmes methodically pursued a mission to kill.
"But the mere senselessness of it shows that it was psychotic. There was no political statement or religious statement or statement of any kind about what happened in that theater," she said. "He didn't send anything to the New York Times or The Denver Post. He sent his notebook to his psychiatrist. It had nothing to do with notoriety."
District Attorney George Brauchler countered that Holmes wanted to increase his value by killing others.
"Is mental illness going to be a shield here to protect someone who had the capacity to make decisions?" the prosecutor asked. "Nobody in their right mind could plan the massacre of a theater full of human beings. We should take comfort in that. But not having the right mind does not protect you from the ramifications of your decisions."
A woman interrupted the prosecutor, screaming, "He's wrong," "Mental illness is real," and, "Don't kill him, it's not his fault." She started climbing over seats toward the defense table before three deputies pulled her from the courtroom. Brauchler then returned to his argument, and the judge later told jurors to disregard the outburst.
After the jury finished its deliberations for the day, Judge Carlos A. Samour Jr. sentenced the woman, identified as Deborah Cave, to three weeks in jail for contempt of court. "You can't justify murder with murder," she yelled as she was led away in handcuffs.
Now each juror must decide if they see reasons to override a potential death penalty and sentence Holmes to life without parole. They will resume deliberations Monday.
Samour gave them lengthy instructions, detailing the evidence presented about Holmes' childhood, mental illness, connections to people who love him and other potentially mitigating factors that might reduce his "moral culpability" and make him worthy of their mercy.
The nine women and three men unanimously agreed that the 2012 attack was cruel enough to justify the death penalty. If they now decide death remains an option, they will next hear from victims and survivors before deliberating his sentence.
The judge enumerated more than 60 possible "mitigating factors," including that all experts agree Holmes suffers from schizophrenia and is not faking the illness, and the theory that the crimes would not have happened if he had been healthy.
"Holmes was genetically loaded to experience a psychotic disorder," given the extensive history of schizophrenia on his father's side of the family, the defense said.
They said his prescription drugs could have increased his mania before the attack, and that he seems stable and non-expressive now only because he's on anti-psychotic medicine to stabilize incurable brain diseases.
Holmes still struggles to explain why his "mission" took such irrevocable control over his mind, they said. Committing the attack was not an act he enjoyed or took pleasure in, and despite the horrific crime, Holmes has friends and family who continue to love and care about him, the defense argued.
Brauchler mocked defense efforts to show how Holmes had been a nice young boy.
"How many videos of him 8 years old and younger would it take to outweigh that horror?" he asked. "Nobody is born a mass murderer. That happens later."
He reminded the jury that Holmes fired four bullets into the body of his youngest victim, a 6-year-old girl.
"He made a decision to massacre, and he did; 12 dead from the community. Can anything outweigh that? No," Brauchler said.
His voice dropped to a whisper as he repeated, "No."
This story has been corrected to show deliberations will resume Monday, not Friday.