court
court

by Peter Mertz

Court may resume Monday for Colorado movie theater massacre trial of gunman James Holmes after the judge in the trial sent the jury home earlier Friday when a member of the panel complained that she was suffering from symptoms including sinus infection and fever.

Court
Court
Judge Carlos Samour, Jr. made the decision to show sympathy and concern for the sick juror, a woman in her 50s, but the jury cannot meet or discuss the case unless all members are present. After the jurors were sent home, the defense team for James Holmes continued to call witnesses whose testimony was recorded on video. It will be played later in open court.

The panel of nine women and three men are hearing the punishment phase of the trial of Holmes, 27, who killed 12 people and wounded 70 in a July 2012 rampage at a midnight screening of a Batman film at a Denver area theater.

The trial is now in the mitigation phase, with the gunman’s attorneys calling witnesses including former teachers of the defendant, a high school friend, and the head counselor at a summer camp where Holmes worked.
The defense team of four woman and one man, now led by Rebecca Higgs, will next week wrap up their Stage 2 “mitigating factor” presentation, that is trying to humanize Holmes.

It is unclear how long the final, Stage 3 will take before the jury will or will not decree the Death Penalty, but court observers say the final verdict may occur as early as mid-August.

Holmes was found guilty last week of killing 12 and wounding 70 by gunfire at a Batman movie premiere in July 2012.

The jury wasted little time finding him guilty on all counts, suggesting they want Holmes to die for the heinous act, a stance taken by a majority of the victims’ families.

However one juror may still show “mercy” that will negate the Death Penalty, and Holmes will spend the rest of his life behind bars.

Ironically, the Death Penalty is a fading institution in Colorado, due to appeals and stall tactics by the many skilled defense lawyers in the state.

Even if the jury sanctions death for Holmes, he may never be executed for one of the worst mass murders in U.S. history.

The last murderer convicted to die, Nathan Dunlap, was spared execution by the governor of the state last year after almost 20 years of legal wrangling.

Time is running out for the defense team. They must convince jurors in the next few days, during the hearing’s all-important second phase, that there is some, small “doubt” about executing Holmes.

If testimony from life-long friends and family is unable to sway the jury that Holmes has redeeming qualities, then the hearing will move to Stage 3 where the prosecution is expected to dominate.

Stage 3 will showcase “aggravating factors” that highlight the horrific nature of the crime Holmes carefully planned and showed ” extreme indifference” executing.

The defense team has amply articulated Holmes’struggle with schizophrenia, saying it was peaking when the massacre occurred, and that it is unacceptable in a civilized society to kill people who are mentally ill.
Aggravating factors will include the devastation and irreparable damage Holmes has caused directly to hundreds of people, and thousands more indirectly, whose lives were rocked by the former neuroscience student at the nearby University of Colorado.

Holmes was found guilty on 164 counts of murder and attempted murder — 82 victims with two counts each — and witnesses for the prosecution have wielded powerful emotional impact during court proceedings.

“The aggravating factors are heavy enough to sink a battleship, ” a criminal lawyer following the case told Xinhua.

The prosecution is expected to rule Stage 3 using witnesses, still shocked and trying to process what they endured in the theater that night.

In attempt to move to the final phase more quickly, chief prosecuting attorney George Brauchler, 45, offered not to cross- examine defense witnesses in the second phase of the sentencing.

That offer was contingent on the defense team limiting its use of psychiatrists as witnesses, who already testified during the trial that Holmes is mentally ill.

Brauchler knows minimizing psychiatric explanations of schizophrenia will boost his case and weaken the “mental illness” reasoning the defense is using to save their client.

On the floor, Brauchler has stood out with his folksy appeal to jurors, while they rejected the impassioned plea of defense attorney Dan King. Enditem

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