For 25 minutes Thursday morning during the murder trial of James Holmes in Centennial, Colorado, jurors passed the mountain of evidence gathered from the theater from person to person.
Among the items they handled were two Glock handguns, a Smith and Wesson M&P15 rifle, magazines and ammunition, tactical body armor, two knives, a trio of gas masks, a Taser, and even the pink flip flops of one of the victims.
The arsenal was from a warm July night at the movies. Prosecutor Karen Pearson asked the judge to allow the jurors to touch and feel the weight of the gear used in the Aurora theater shooting on July 20, 2012.
Moments before, Special Agent Nick Vanicelli, a member of the FBI’s evidence response team, had itemized the plastic bags of evidence for the court and jurors. One by one and in small groups, prosecutor Pearson brought up the bags for Vanicelli to evaluate then piled them on a table in front of the court.
As the pile grew higher, Holmes watched the materials he purchased go by with little expression.
It was an emotional day in court.
Victims and family members were visibly shaken when FBI intelligence analyst and crime scene photographer, Toni Payne, did a similar inventory of pictures she took between 8:30 a.m. and noon on the day of the shooting at the rear of the Century 16 theater.
One photo included a close up with lots of blood, a rifle used on the ground and the pink flip flops from one the victims. Some in the court sat with their hands to their mouths. Jurors studied the monitors intently. When an image of handcuffs showed up, James Holmes swiveled in his chair.
Tears flowed in the afternoon when two survivors of the theater shooting took the stand. Amanda Teves, the girlfriend of Alex Teves who went on to take his last name following his death, trembled as she recounted her memories of that night.
Prosecutor Lisa Teesch-Maguire escorted the fragile witness to her seat. She did not look at Holmes as she testified.
In a breaking voice, Teves described how she spoke to her boyfriend, Alex, that night and asked him “for a last kiss” before the movie started because she knew he would be too focused during the movie to be very affectionate with her.
She described flashing lights and what she thought were fireworks then talked about the moment she knew Alex was hit.
“I didn’t want to leave him there,” she said through tears. When there was no other choice but to leave the theatre she told the court “I grabbed Alex’s hand too. I wanted to take him with me.”
Victims cried and leaned against one another. A priest escorted her from the courtroom when she ended her testimony.
Holmes returns to court Friday for a slightly shortened day so one of the jurors can examine dental work.
Holmes faces 166 counts for the deaths of 12, the injuries to 70 and an explosives charge. His trial is expected to last four or five months. His parents and some of the victim families have vowed to be in court every day. His lawyers have conceded that he committed the shooting, but argue he is not-guilty by reason of insanity.