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Aurora Theater Trial: James Holmes Found Guilty of Murder

by Alex Johnson and Jacob Rascon /  / Updated 

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James Holmes was found guilty of first-degree murder Thursday in the deaths of 12 people at a Colorado theater three years ago — and now faces the possibility of being sentenced to death.

The nine-woman, three-man jury decided Holmes was not insane in the shootings at a screening of a Batman movie, "The Dark Knight Rises," in Aurora, near Denver, on July 20, 2012. He was found guilty of all 24 counts of first-degree murder, 140 counts of attempted murder and similar counts and one explosives count.

"My body shuddered. A sense of relief came over me," said Yousef Gharbi, who was shot in the head. "Like everybody, I sighed. I gasped for air. That's what I wanted to hear, but I didn't know if that's what I was going to hear."

Related: 'So Relieved': Survivors, Loved Ones Welcome James Holmes Convictions

Colorado Gov. John Hickenlooper said in a statement: "This has been an emotional and difficult time for the victims, their families, loved ones and friends. My hope is that this step brings some peace to each of them, and begins the healing process for all of Colorado."

The proceedings next move to the sentencing stage, in which Holmes could face the death penalty. That begins Wednesday and is expected to take about a month.

Holmes, 27, a former doctoral student in neuroscience at the University of Colorado-Denver, pleaded not guilty by reason of insanity — never denying that he carried out the bloody rampage. Had he been found not guilty to all 165 counts by reason of insanity, he would have been committed to a mental institution, probably for the rest of his life.

Arapahoe County Chief District Judge Carlos Samour announced that the jury's foreman was juror number 737 — who had revealed during jury selection that he survived the 1999 massacre of 12 students and a teacher at Columbine High School in Littleton, Colorado.

Related: Meet the James Holmes Jurors

The trial came down to which side's psychiatrists the jurors believed.

Two prosecution psychiatrists testified that while Holmes may have been mentally ill, he was sane on July 20, 2012, and the days he spent planning leading up to it.

Two defense psychiatrists disputed that conclusion, testifying that Holmes was schizophrenic and suffered from delusions and therefore couldn't be held personally accountable.

Related: 'Dark Knight' Shooting Trial Hinges on James Holmes' Sanity

There were 24 murder counts instead of 12 because prosecutors brought separate charges of first-degree murder with intent and first-degree murder with extreme difference for each of the victims: Jonathon Blunk, Alexander Boik, Jesse Childress, Gordon Cowden, Jessica Ghawi, John Thomas Larimer, Matthew McQuinn, Micayla Medek, Veronica Moser-Sullivan, Alex Sullivan, Alexander Teves and Rebecca Ann Wingo.

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