AURORA | Jurors in the Aurora theater shooting found four of the five aggravating factors were met as the sentencing phase for James Holmes moves onward.
But jurors found that the prosecution did not prove the second of the five aggravating factors: That he intentionally killed a child.
One of the 12 victims in the July 2012 attack was 6-year-old Veronica Moser-Sullivan, and her murder in particular was one of the five aggravating factors prosecutors argued make Holmes eligible for the death penalty.
The jury agreed on the other four — that Holmes killed multiple people, created serious risk for others, his crime was especially heinous and cruel and that he lied in wait to ambush his victims.
Deliberations on the aggravating factors started Wednesday afternoon and were expected to move quickly. After presenting a mountain of evidence during the trial showing Holmes killed multiple people, including a child, and that he ambushed his victims, prosecutors opted not to present any evidence during this phase and only made about a 30-minute argument detailing those aggravating factors. The defense didn’t present any evidence or make any argument.
During his argument Wednesday, Deputy District Attorney Rich Orman told the jury that Moser-Sullivan was shot four times, a clear sign that Holmes meant to kill the recent kindergarten graduate.
“When you shoot someone four times, you do it with intent,” Orman said.
Prosecutors also noted that there were several children in the theater that Holmes likely saw before he snuck out, donned his body armor and grabbed three guns.
But shortly after they started deliberating, it appeared the jury was hung up on the question of whether Holmes meant to kill Moser-Sullivan, or that he simply meant to kill people and a child happened to be one of the victims.
Jurors asked for a DVD player and television so they could watch surveillance videos from the theater showing several children in attendance as well as a video of Holmes speaking to police after his arrest. In that video, Holmes asked the officers if any children were hurt in the attack.
Thursday morning, the jury sent the judge a note asking for clarification on the question of whether Holmes meant to kill a child.
Around 1 p.m., Judge Carlos Samour Jr. read the jury’s verdict.
The full day of deliberations on the aggravating factors nearly equals the day and a half the jury spent last week deliberating Holmes’ guilt. Still, because they spent several hours waiting on a television to watch the video, and because there were technical problems with one of the videos, it’s unclear just how much time they spent deliberating and how much time they spent waiting on equipment.
The sentencing portion of Holmes’ trial now moves into the mitigation phase, during which the defense is expected to call people who know Holmes well and want the jury to sentence him to life in prison without parole instead of death.
The jury convicted Holmes of all the charges against him last week after a trial that lasted nearly three months. The sentencing phase is expected to continue into August.