This week, the State of Colorado proceeds in its case against James Holmes, the young man convicted last week of several counts of murder in the shooting of 12 people inside a movie theater in Aurora, Colorado.
Specifically, Holmes was found guilty of 24 counts of first-degree murder for which he now faces the possibility of death. (That was in addition to 134 counts of first-degree attempted murder, and 6 counts of attempted second-degree murder, which do not carry the death penalty.)
It’s a case that has had lots of media attention; you probably remember that eerie photo of James Holmes with his "Joker-like" hair and strange staring eyes.
Colorado Theater Shooting Case: Sentencing Phase Begins
What happens now is the part of a death penalty case that Terence Lenamon is all too familiar: the sentence phase. As in Florida, the Colorado prosecutors — who are asking for death in the case — will provide evidence in the form of documents and testimony of the "aggravating factors" they argue support capital punishment for James Holmes.
After the state finishes putting on that evidence, the defense team will present evidence of "mitigating factors" which argue against the death penalty for James Holmes.
Read the Colorado Aggravating Factors and Mitigating Factors as they are defined by Colorado law here. (Terry has collected these statutes for all the death penalty states as well as those that apply in federal court and military tribunals.)
Holmes’ Schizophrenia isn’t in dispute.
One key factor here: the mental illness of the defendant and whether or not his insanity will block capital punishment here. There is no controversy that James Holmes is mentally ill; he is diagnosed as schizophrenic.
The state is arguing that despite that diagnosis, Holmes was legally sane when he killed those people at the movie theater and should get the death penalty in order for justice to be served.
The defense is arguing that it would be cruel and unusual to do so. Holmes’ behavior in prison — licking the walls, smearing feces on the walls, believing Barack Omaha speaks to him through the television, etc. — leaves little doubt that he is very ill.
Once again, the law’s definition of "insanity" is tested against the reality of the defendant. This part of the trial, with the same jury that found Holmes guilty, should take about a month to complete.