NewsCrime World

Jurors reach verdict in trial of Batman cinema shooter

James Holmes
James Holmes

Jurors have reached a verdict in the trial of cinema gunman James Holmes, who killed 12 people during a midnight premiere of a Batman film.

The jury made its decision after deliberating at Arapahoe County District Court in Centennial, Colorado, for a day and a half.

A court spokesman said the verdict will be read at 4.15pm MDT (2215 GMT).

Holmes, 27, pleaded not guilty by reason of insanity over the shootings during a screening of The Dark Knight Rises on July 20 2012 which also wounded 70 people.

The verdict comes nearly three years to the day of the attack. His lawyers argued that he was in the grips of a psychotic episode.

Jurors heard nearly three months of evidence, including heartbreaking and sometimes gruesome stories from more than 70 survivors.

If the jury convicts Holmes, the trial will enter a sentencing phase in which the jurors will hear evidence and decide whether he should be sent to prison for life without the possibility of parole or sentenced to death.

If they find him not guilty by reason of insanity, he would be committed indefinitely to a state mental hospital.

Prosecutors focused on the findings of two state-appointed forensic psychiatrists who examined Holmes months and years after the shooting and found him severely mentally ill yet capable of knowing right from wrong and therefore legally sane under Colorado law.

Dozens of investigators gave evidence about the carnage Holmes inflicted and how he rigged his apartment with an elaborate booby trap he hoped would explode and divert first responders from the Aurora cinema as he set about the attack.

Prosecutors honed in on Holmes' elaborate planning of the massacre. They showed jurors a spiral notebook in which he had listed what weapons to buy, which auditoriums in the cinema complex would allow for the most casualties, and even an estimated emergency response time to the scene.

Defence lawyers portrayed Holmes as a struggling neuroscience graduate student so addled by mental illness that he was unable to tell right from wrong at the time of the shootings.

They said he suffered from schizophrenia, and they called two doctors who said Holmes was in the grips of a psychotic episode when he acted on delusions that propelled him to kill. They called a far shorter list of witnesses, such as doctors and jail guards, who described Holmes' bizarre behaviour before and after the shootings.