AURORA | Jurors in the Aurora theater shooting trial heard gut-wrenching testimony Tuesday from the relatives of five of the 12 people killed in the July 2012 shooting.
District Attorney George Brauchler told the jury during brief opening arguments in this final phase of James Holmes’ trial that the testimony would offer them some insight into the lives of those gunned down in the theater.
“To give you a glimpse as to who those people are in the pictures, the ones he shot to death,” he said. “And you will get just the faintest of whiffs of the impacts on those who are left behind.”
Brauchler said prosecutors will call several more relatives Wednesday and hope to wrap their case then. After that, Brauchler said, prosecutors hope the jury sentences Holmes to death.
Public defender Rebekka Higgs said the appropriate sentence for Holmes, after hearing multiple doctors testifying to his mental illness, is life in prison.
“Is life without the possibility of parole for this young man — who has an illness that he didn’t ask for, an illness he struggled to fix — is life in a prison cell without ever being released a sufficient punishment?” she said. “We say yes.”
The defense opted not to cross examine any of the witnesses Tuesday.
Higgs said the defense will ask the jury to spare Holmes’ life.
“We will ask that you not answer death with death,” she said.
The first witness to testify was Robert Wingo, whose former wife, Rebecca Wingo, was gunned down in the theater. The couple had two daughters together who are now 12 and 8 years old, respectively.
Robert said Rebecca was always “the central personality to whatever situation she was in” and was always a strong female role model for her daughters.
“That’s not a model they have on a day-to-day basis anymore,” he said.
Tom Sullivan, whose son, Alex, was killed at the theater while celebrating his 27th birthday with friends, said his son was “every father’s dream.”
When he saw news about the shooting, Tom said he called his son and left him a voicemail. He assumed Alex didn’t answer because he was asleep that early morning but he told him he hoped he was safe.
“And then I wished him happy birthday,” he said.
Theresa Hoover, whose son A.J. Boik was killed, said her two sons were her entire world.
“I’ve lost half of what I was put on this earth to do,” she said.
The jury could hear closing arguments in the case as soon as Thursday. Brauchler said he expects to call his last witness Wednesday afternoon, and the defense said they do not expect to call any witnesses at this phase.
The same jury that convicted Holmes of murder last month will then decide whether he should be sentenced to death for his crimes.