Prosecutors wrap up emotional case in theater shooting trial
June 19, 2015
CENTENNIAL, Colo. — Prosecutors in the Colorado theater shooting trial were wrapping up their case Friday against James Holmes after eight weeks of testimony in which they sought to show that the former neuroscience student meticulously planned and carried out the 2012 massacre while knowing it was wrong.
As they have throughout their case, prosecutors also sought to drive home the emotional impact of the shootings, which killed 12 people and wounded 70.
The day began with a tearful Petra Hogan describing being shot in the face and arm at the suburban Denver movie theater. It was likely to end with testimony from a survivor who was paralyzed and suffered a miscarriage, and whose 6-year-old daughter died in the attack.
The five-member prosecution team has relied on Holmes' own videotaped statements to a state-appointed psychiatrist to undermine Holmes' claim that he was so mentally ill he didn't know right from wrong during the attack.
They tried to weave a powerful story by mixing dramatic recollections of victims with technical testimony. Weapons dealers and investigators described how Holmes spent thousands of dollars to amass an arsenal of guns, ammunition, body armor and enough chemicals to rig his apartment into a potentially deadly booby trap.
Classmates at the University of Colorado-Denver, a former girlfriend, and two university psychiatrists who treated him before the shooting all testified that they knew nothing of his plans to attack a midnight showing of the Batman movie "The Dark Knight Rises" on July 20, 2012.
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But prosecutors showed Holmes' spiral notebook, in which he made lists of weapons he planned to buy and included detailed drawings of the suburban Aurora theater complex complete with pros and cons of attacking different auditoriums. He wrote about an "obsession to kill" he held since childhood.
"Interspersing that argument with so many victims was a reminder of the devastation that one man caused," said Karen Steinhauser, a Denver defense attorney and former prosecutor who is not involved in the case.
One former fellow student testified that Holmes told her to stay away from him just over a week before he carried out the deadly attack.
Hillary Allen said she texted Holmes to check on him July 8, 2012, about a month after he said he was dropping out of school. He told her he had a form of mania and that she should avoid him, saying he was "bad news bears."
During their text exchange, Allen asked Holmes if his condition was manageable. He responded: "It was. Floodgates open now."
Prosecutors also planned to call one of the most grievously injured: Ashley Moser, the woman who was paralyzed and lost her daughter, Veronica.
Moser planned to tie up a case that opened with testimony from Katie Medley, who was nine months pregnant when her husband, Caleb, was shot in the head while seated next to her. Medley spoke about her decision to leave him behind in the theater in order to save their baby. She later gave birth in the same hospital where Caleb was in a coma. He can no longer walk and has trouble talking.
In Colorado, prosecutors have the burden of proof in trying to convince the jury to reject Holmes' plea of not guilty by reason of insanity. They showed jurors — over strong defense objections — nearly 21 hours of Holmes' videotaped interviews with a state-appointed psychiatrist who concluded Holmes was seriously mentally ill but legally sane at the time of the shooting.
Prosecutors pointed out that Holmes was going to the gym up until a couple weeks before the shooting, and that he after he was jailed, he was requesting highbrow literature from the classic novel "Don Quixote" to Plato.
"There was no stone left unturned, there was no "T" uncrossed, no "I" undotted," Steinhauser said of the prosecution's case.
Now the four defense lawyers will begin calling their own psychiatrists and presenting other evidence to argue Holmes should be found not guilty. They plan to begin their case next Thursday.
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