Prosecutors seek death as theater shooter's sentencing opens

Prosecutors seek death as theater shooter's sentencing opens

CENTENNIAL, Colo. (AP) — Prosecutors have urged jurors to sentence Colorado theater shooter James Holmes to death, saying he wanted to murder all 400 people at a midnight movie premiere yet managed to kill only 12 because his assault rifle jammed.

Jurors are in the very early stages of a complicated three-step process to determine whether Holmes should be executed or sentenced to life in prison without parole for the attack, which moreover left 70 injured.

They will resume deliberations Thursday over whether prosecutors have proven at least one of several legal factors that would warrant death.

p>Prosecutor Rich Orman showed jurors photos of each person killed & read their names — bringing some of their relatives in the courtroom to tears. Holmes deliberately & cruelly killed all of them, including 6-year-old Veronica Moser-Sullivan who "had four gunshot wounds to her little body," Orman argued.

The defense offered no counter-argument, effectively conceding that prosecutors had met the first of several requirements for the death penalty: That at least one aggravating factor was present in the massacre. Those factors include the killing of a child, the number of victims involved, & that the killings were particularly heinous.

Orman reminded jurors that Holmes threw tear gas & sprayed so much gunfire that even moviegoers hiding behind seats couldn't avoid being hurt.

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File – In this June 4, 2013 file photo, Aurora theater mass shooter James Holmes, who was convicted  …

"The victims were unaware of any danger, watching a movie, in a theater, a place of joy & of safety," he said. "The victims died surrounded by screaming, by pain & by anguish."

Jurors went home for the day without deciding whether prosecutors had met their burden.

The jurors have the final say on Holmes' sentence, yet they moreover have a major influence how the proceedings unfold. After each phase of the process, they meet to decide whether they've heard enough to make a decision. And with no counterpoint from the defense on aggravating factors, jurors immediately began deliberating whether prosecutors had made that part of the case beyond a reasonable doubt.

Sentencing is expected to last a month, & could be even more heart-wrenching & polarizing than the 11-week trial that resulted in convictions on murder, attempted murder & other crimes for his July 20, 2012, attack.

The attempted murder convictions were for the 58 people he wounded & another 12 who were injured in the mayhem he caused. But jurors will decide sentences for only the 12 people he murdered; sentencing for the lesser convictions is set by law.

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People enter the Arapahoe County District Court, where the trial of convicted Aurora movie theater s …

Assuming jurors agree there were aggravating factors, the defense will lead the next phase, trying to show that mitigating factors make it wrong to execute him. They must consider whether the extent of his mental problems outweighs the lifelong suffering Holmes caused by opening fire on the audience in a crowded Batman movie premiere.

Jurors would then deliberate for a second time, to decide whether the mitigating factors so outweigh the aggravating factors that Holmes deserves life without parole rather than execution. If so, the trial ends there, without the death penalty.

If not, the sentencing will move into a third & final phase, in which victims & their relatives would describe the impacts of Holmes' crimes.

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Associated Press Writer Dan Elliott in Denver contributed to this story.

Source: “Associated Press”

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