Colorado cinema massacre trial to hear closing arguments

Reuters News
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Posted: Jul 14, 2015 11:01 AM

By Keith Coffman

CENTENNIAL, Colo. (Reuters) - Lawyers in the trial of Colorado movie massacre gunman James Holmes will make their closing arguments on Tuesday to jurors who must decide whether he is a calculating mass murderer or was legally insane when he killed 12 people.

Prosecutors and the defense have been allotted two hours each to present their case by Arapahoe County District Court Judge Carlos Samour, after testimony in the almost three-month-long capital trial ended last week.

It is the last time attorneys will address the jury before the panel begins deliberating the fate of the 27-year-old California native on Wednesday.

Holmes faces 165 counts of first-degree murder, attempted murder and explosive charges stemming from the July 20, 2012 rampage inside a midnight screening of a Batman movie at a multiplex in the Denver suburb of Aurora.

When the shooting stopped, 12 moviegoers lay dead and 70 were either wounded by gunfire or were injured fleeing the theater. Prosecutors will seek the death penalty for Holmes if he is convicted.

Prosecutors called more than 200 witnesses, interspersing testimony from wounded victims, with others who detailed his purchases of weapons, body armor, and the bomb-making materials he used to booby-trap his apartment.

They also called two court-appointed psychiatrists who testified that while severely mentally ill, the onetime neuroscience graduate student was sane when he plotted and carried out the massacre.

The defense case focused on its two hired psychiatrists who both concluded Holmes is delusional and schizophrenic, that he heard voices commanding him to kill to enhance his "self worth," and cannot be held legally accountable.

Since they have the burden of proof, prosecutors will address jurors first, and will get the last word with a shorter rebuttal argument after the defense makes its case.

Former Colorado prosecutor Bob Grant, who prosecuted the only death-row inmate executed in the state in 48 years, said the prosecution will remind jurors of Holmes' meticulous planning and the carnage he wrought.

"The district attorney will argue although the defendant is mentally ill, he is not insane under the law, and society deserves its pound of flesh from him," Grant said.

Longtime Colorado criminal defense lawyer Mark Johnson said the defense's closing will likely focus on Holmes' psychosis, which its experts testified did not emerge suddenly.

    "It could be argued that despite his well thought-out preparation, someone who would go to such lengths with no lucid motive is insane," Johnson said.

(Reporting by Keith Coffman; Editing by Daniel Wallis and Andrew Hay)