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James Holmes Has Been Convicted, But Aurora Trial Is Far From Over

The Aurora movie theater trial enters a new phase as the jury decides whether James Holmes should die for his crimes.
/ Source: Associated Press

CENTENNIAL, Colo. — Families of the 12 people James Holmes killed and the scores he injured in a packed movie theater were relieved that jurors only needed 12 hours to reject the idea that he was legally insane when he opened fire.

Now the trial enters a new phase as the jury decides whether Holmes should die for his crimes.

Starting next week, jurors will hear testimony about Holmes' mental illness and his childhood. Prosecutors may counter with even more heartbreaking accounts from victims, ranging from those Holmes maimed to the father of his youngest victim, a 6-year-old girl who died in the 2012 attack.

There was a muted, heartbroken sense of relief Thursday afternoon following Holmes' conviction on 165 counts of murder, attempted murder and other charges. Victims wept and comforted one another in the courtroom during the hour-long recitation of each verdict, holding hands and nodding their heads with satisfaction when their loved one's names were read.

"We're all really happy he's guilty, but we're all really sad to be here," said Katie Medley, whose husband, Caleb, uses a wheelchair after being shot in the head during the attack.

The verdict came after 2-1/2 years of legal skirmishing between prosecutors and Holmes' public defenders and 11 months of grueling testimony. The upcoming sentencing phase could easily take another month.

"I'm glad we're at this point, but at the same time, we have a long way to go," said Marcus Weaver, who was injured in the attack and whose friend Rebecca Wingo was killed.

Experts say the sentencing phase could prove even more emotionally wrenching as survivors describe the impact of the shooting on their daily lives. It will be a harder decision for jurors, who will have fewer instructions to guide them, said defense attorney Karen Steinhauser, who is not involved in the Holmes case.

That jurors swiftly rejected Holmes' insanity defense doesn't mean they'll come to a speedy conclusion about his punishment.

"They're going to have to decide, for someone who is mentally ill, if a death sentence is the right punishment," she said. "It ends up being a much more personal decision."

If just one juror disagrees with a death sentence, Holmes, 27, will be sent to prison for life.