AURORA | James Holmes’ lawyer pleaded with jurors Thursday to sentence him to life in prison instead of death, arguing that his mental illness caused the July 2012 Aurora theater shooting.
“But for this mental illness, that shooting would not have occurred,” public defender Tamara Brady told the jury, noting that every doctor who examined Holmes said he was seriously mentally ill.
Brady said Holmes was a normal child and young man until his mental illness — each doctor has said it he has a serious illness on the schizophrenia spectrum, but they disagree on what exactly it is — took control when he was a graduate student in 2012.
While Holmes plotted the shooting, his thoughts were all tainted by his psychosis, she said, and his shopping spree for weapons and armor were so out of the norm for him, they were the obvious product of his mental illness.
No matter what the jury decides, Brady said Holmes will be punished. She asked the jury to find that the mitigating factors, especially his mental illness, outweigh the aggravating factors.
“And then James Eagan Holmes will live the rest of his life in a prison cell,” she said.
But District Attorney George Brauchler said Holmes’ mental illness isn’t enough to outweigh the horror of the crime, which left 12 dead and 70 others wounded.
“Is this mental illness a shield to treat him differently?” he asked the jury.
Brauchler told the jury that even if Holmes stopped after killing three people, or six or 10, his crime would still be so heinous that the death penalty would be appropriate.
Holmes launched the attack not because he was mentally ill, but because he wanted to be famous, Brauchler said. In his jail cell, Holmes didn’t post the family pictures his parents gave him, but instead the pictures of scantily clad women who wrote to him.
And, Brauchler said, Holmes acted rationally in the days and weeks leading to the shooting.
“Every decision he makes is purposeful and rational towards an outrageously evil goal,” he said.
During Brauchler’s closing argument, a woman in the gallery started screaming about mental illness and was lead from the courtroom by deputies. The woman yelled that she was bipolar and about mental illness.
“It’s not his fault,” she yelled before shouting profanities and being escorted out of the courtroom.
Once the woman was removed from the courtroom Brauchler immediately resumed his closing argument.
The woman’s outburst marked the first of the trial. During a hearing in 2012, a woman stood up and addressed the court. At another hearing, one of the victim’s fathers later yelled “rot in hell Holmes.”
The woman had been in court for five days and while deputies were worried she might act out, Samour said she didn’t cause any problems until Thursday.
Prosecutors asked Judge Carlos Samour Jr. to hold the woman in contempt. The defense said she was clearly mentally ill and asked Samour to have her checked into a mental health facility instead of jail.
After the jury went home for the day, Samour called the woman, Deborah Cave, back into the court room and found her in contempt. The judge, who had already ruled the woman would not be allowed to attend the trial any more, sentenced her to three weeks in jail.
Samour said the woman waited until Thursday, when the courtroom was full, to make a scene. The judge said the woman stepped over a few rows in the gallery and tried to elude the deputies when they tried to catch her.
“More disruptive behavior, I cannot possibly fathom,” he said.
When given a chance to make a statement before the judge handed down a sanction, Cave said she tried to make a statement in May 2013 when she filed a motion with the court. She said she wrote several letter to Holmes early on and they were delivered with no problems, but then the jail stopped delivering her letters and a picture of herself she sent.
“I tried to do this properly, and you all denied my motion,” she said.
The woman again yelled about the death penalty and said executing Holmes “offends” her. She shouted about the death penalty as jailers led her out to start serving her sentence.
The jury deliberated for about an hour before leaving for the day. They are scheduled to resume deliberations Monday.
The trial started in late April and is expected to wrap in August. If the jury finds there wasn’t enough mitigation evidence to sentence Holmes to life, the sentencing phase will move onto a third segment, during which prosecutors will call on the family of the victims to testify.