Caleb Medley with his family outside the Arapahoe County Justice Center after the guilty verdict in the James Holmes trial on July 16, 2015 in Centennial, CO. (Photo by Trevor L Davis/Aurora Sentinel)

CENTENNIAL | Almost three years after James Holmes walked into an Aurora movie theater and opened fire, killing 12, injuring 70 and traumatizing a city of 350,000 people, jurors needed only 13 hours to render a decision: Guilty on all charges, including 24 first-degree murder charges.

Nods of approval, hugs and tears rippled through the seven rows of victims and family members seated in Arapahoe County District courtroom 201 Thursday afternoon as Judge Carlos Samour Jr. spent over an hour reading off the 165 counts of murder and attempted murder facing the shooter.

Sandy Phillips, whose daughter, Jessica Ghawi, was shot and killed in the massacre, wept and peered toward the ceiling the moment Samour read the first count shortly after 4:15 p.m.

“We’re very happy — extremely happy — with the result today (of) convicted on all charges,” Phillips told reporters outside the courthouse following the announcement of the verdict. “We’re very happy that this animal, this monster will never see the light of day. It feels good to have this weight off of our backs.”

Wrapped in an emerald scarf, Phillips clasped the hand of Caren Teves, who was seated beside her, when the judge read the name of Teves’ slain son, Alex. From his chair along the aisle of the courtroom’s fourth row of seating, Caren’s husband, Tom, sat fixated on the face of the man now convicted of killing his 24-year-old son.

And just as he’s done every day in a trial that has spanned almost three months, Holmes stared straight ahead, emotionlessly, while the judge read one guilty verdict after another. Seated no more than 15 feet behind him, Holmes’ parents, Arlene and Robert, held hands and listened in silence to Samour’s repetitive declarations of the jury’s decision: Guilty with a wholesale rejection of the insanity defense presented.

Mayor Steve Hogan said that there was no real sense of relief or closure from today’s verdicts, because it’s been “three long years, and it’s not over yet.”

He said the most important thing for Aurora to do is to reach out to each other, and especially the victims and families of victims, and let them know that “we’re still here for you, and we will always be here for you.”

Judge Carlos Samour Jr. thumbs through juror forms before the reading of the verdict in the trial of James Holmes in Arapahoe County District Court on

In one of the biggest and most-complicated cases the state has seen, the jury of three men and nine women handed Samour manila folders teeming with verdict forms, with Juror 737 — a survivor of the Columbine High School shooting — having served as foreman for the group of 12.

Jurors appeared stoic while Samour read through the charges. One juror appeared to dab at her eyes during the long reading.

Holmes faced 24 charges of first-degree murder — 12 counts of murder with deliberation and 12 counts of murder with extreme indifference, 116 counts of attempted murder, possession of explosive devices, and inciting violence.


A guilty verdict means the trial now moves into the death penalty sentencing phase, wherein a new round of testimony will begin to decide whether Holmes will be sentenced to death for his crimes. Sentencing proceedings are expected to begin Wednesday morning. It’s expected that this phase of the trial would take a few weeks and be complete in August.


The first day of testimony in the trial saw prosecutors wasting no time showing the then-24-person jury gut-wrenching evidence against Holmes. Dozens of witnesses would follow the next day — victims who walked to the stand using canes due to the lingering effects of their injuries, police officers who carried the wounded from the theater and those who saw death up close in the early morning hours of July 20, 2012.

FILE - In a Sept. 30, 2013 file photo, 18th Judicial District Attorney George Brauchler arrives for a hearing for Aurora theater shooting suspect James Holmes at district court in Centennial, Colo. Brauchler is overseeing the closely-watched prosecution of Colorado theater shooter James Holmes, whose trial is scheduled to begin on Tuesday, Jan. 20, 2015. Many Colorado Republicans hope he runs for senator next year or governor in 2018. (AP Photo/Ed Andrieski, File)

The prosecution played multiple 911 tapes early on in their case of people inside Theater 9 begging for help. Several jurors wept, as did many family members who buried their heads in their hands and sobbed as they listened to the horror. Attorneys held their heads in their hands during some of the tapes.

As he did through most of the trial to date, Holmes sat quietly at the defense table, occasionally swiveling slowly in his chair and turning to look at evidence shown on a flat-screen TV mounted on the wall. He had no discernible expression throughout weeks of testimony.


Public defender Dan King and his team of lawyers representing Holmes focused intensely on psychiatrists who reasoned Holmes had suffered from mental illness for years leading up to the shooting — some doctors, such as University of Pennsylvania psychiatrist Raquel Gur, stated they believed Holmes was in the grips of schizophrenia for weeks leading up to the shooting.


FILE - In this April 1, 2013, file photo, defense attorneys Daniel King, right, and Tamara Brady arrive at the courthouse for a hearing in the case of their client, Aurora theater shooting suspect James Holmes, in Centennial, Colo. King and Brady are chief trial deputies for the state public defender's office. (AP Photo/Brennan Linsley, File)

Gur in particular said Holmes’ disease was so severe he didn’t know right from wrong when he opened fire on the theater.

But for most of the defense’s top witnesses, District Attorney George Brauchler spent lengthy cross examinations picking away at their credentials as court-certified expert witnesses, their deviation from their usual practices in evaluating Holmes, and that many of them routinely testified only on the behalf of defense teams in other cases.

“Even without willful dishonesty, an expert’s opinion can be influenced by the side that called for their testimony,” Brauchler said during cross examination of Gur.


When both sides had concluded their cases, 49 days had passed of gut-wrenching testimony and fiery back-and-forth about doctors’ diagnoses of Holmes. The question the jury of nine women and three men started deliberating about on July 15: Was James Holmes sane when he opened fire on that packed movie theater three years ago, killing 12 and wounding 70?

Prosecutors say Holmes was, and they point to his methodical planning and the findings of two doctors — both were appointed by the state mental hospital and subsequently ruled Holmes sane — as proof that he knew right from wrong.

In this image taken from video, accused Colorado theater shooter James Holmes, background left, listens to lead prosecutor George Brauchler give closing arguments during his trial, in Centennial, Colo., Tuesday, July 14, 2015. On the screen is a photo of the youngest victim, Veronica Moser-Sullivan, who died while at the theater with her pregnant mother. (Colorado Judicial Department via AP, Pool)

“That guy was sane beyond a reasonable doubt and he needs to be held accountable for what he did,” District Attorney George Brauchler said during his closing argument.

But public defender Dan King said trying to attach logic to Holmes’ psychotic actions would never lead to useful answers because Holmes’ thinking at the time was so twisted.

“There isn’t a lot of logic to what Mr. Holmes did because he is mentally ill,” King said.

“You cannot divorce the mental illness from this case or Mr. Holmes, because the mental illness caused this to happen,” King said. “Only the mental illness caused this to happen — and nothing else.”

But Brauchler said Holmes opened fire on the theater not because he was insane, but because he wanted to be remembered. He noted Holmes told Reid he knew he would be remembered after the shooting.

Brauchler also showed the jury a bulletin board in Holmes’ jail cell adorned with several pictures of women who have reached out to him and mailed him photos since the shooting.

“This is success,” Brauchler said, pointing to the board that also included the No. 1 and infinity sign logo Holmes has written several times. “This is his payoff for murdering people.”


At the onset of the trial in April, Aurora Mayor Steve Hogan said this process was a huge milestone on the road to recovery for the community.

“The trial is a part of the healing process, not just for the families who lost a loved one in the theater, but for the victims that survived and for the community as a whole,” said Aurora Mayor Steve Hogan. “It’s part of that process of tying up feelings and fears and frustrations.”

U.S. Representative Mike Coffman echoed the city’s collective sigh of relief.

“I am relieved to see us progress down the path of justice,” Coffman said in a statement released Thursday evening. “The shooting three years ago shook the core of my hometown of Aurora, but the three years since have proven how strong and resilient our community is in the face of evil. My thoughts and prayers are with the families affected by this senseless tragedy.”

Originally expected to last four to five months, the jury’s quick work on rendering a verdict showed they did not linger long in forming an opinion on the key factor: whether Holmes was sane at the time of the attack.

Pastor Reid Hettich of Mosaic Church of Aurora represented the city’s religious leaders on the 7/20 Committee formed after the shooting. He said the trial would be tough for some and helpful for others — and that a verdict brings the community closer to the bigger milestone of a decision on Holmes’ fate.

“The trial being over will give some sense of closure for some people,” he said. “It’s time for us to sort of get this phase over with.”

— Staff writers Chris Harrop, Brandon Johansson and the Associated Press contributed to this report.

3 YEARS AFTER: A look at Aurora and Colorado after the July 20, 2012 Aurora theater shooting

3 YEARS AFTER: Aurora Strong Resilience Center remains space for survivors, residents to support each other

3 YEARS AFTER: Campaign for Aurora 7/20 memorial fund continues uphill climb

3 YEARS AFTER: Beer fest honoring Aurora theater shooting victim Alex Teves benefit forges strong bond

3 YEARS AFTER: Opinions on Aurora theater’s reopening remain sharply divided locally three years after massacre

3 YEARS AFTER: Renewed debate expected for post-Aurora theater shooting gun reforms

3 YEARS AFTER: Timeline of Tragedy

7 replies on “VERDICT: James Holmes found guilty on all charges in Aurora theater shooting trial”

  1. All of this seems exercise in futility. Holmes had problems in California, which showed up to his peers there, and during educational level, with diploma he achieved. Not able to get employment with that, comes to Colorado and applies at CU (and a college east of here from which he received rejection). He starts collecting guns, explosives, and makes plans to wire apartment to explode, and shoots up theatre, after checking others, and their arrangements. He did not deny killing, his lawyers did not deny killing, only question was he insane, or sane , during planning and executing it? So Colorado gets stuck with 3 years of investigating what all knew already, family and victim families stressed, whole city and state smeared. Now another trial to determine if life or death, with a Governor who could not bring himself to assign a date, and set execution for 3 already on death row. So what difference does it make. Life sentence means prison guards are in danger (ref. life prisoner who killed guard in Texas prison with weapon, reported today. Also guy who shoots up recruiting station in Tennessee, killing 4 Marines, injuring another and killing a police officer. I am a compassionate person, and know that Life is Valuable, but are these killer’s lives more valuable than law abiding citizens, who are working at their jobs? When will the victims families get release, and closure? Also the families of those with life sentences, will live with the sentence hanging over them until they die.
    Strange how doctors and medical cannot make a determination, until someone commits a crime, then immediately jump to insanity for that individual. MSM starts writing of them being nut cases, and they can then go into the Perps. background where police cannot go, without a warrant. If anyone wants to get a full history of their past life, they commit a crime, or campaign for office of some type. Brings on the reporters like the ‘hounds of Baskerville’, and will talk to all those folks you never got along with in prior years. They won’t find the ones you did get along with.

  2. David Beats Goliath I’ve Nailed James Eagan Holmes and He Is Getting The Death Penalty and I’ve E-mailed The Arapohoe County Sheriff’s Department and The Arapahoe County District Attorney George Brauchler To Make Sure That James Eagan Holmes Didn’t Get By and I’m Defending The 2nd Amendment Rights and It Feels Real Good,Justice Is Finally Served I’m Happy With the Guilty Verdict and I want James Eagan holmes To Be Put On Death Row and That Makes Me Happy. I’m Celebrating a Victory and It Is Officially Case Closed. I’ve Nailed JAmes Eagan Holmes Big Time Yes.
    I’m Jumping For Joy

    1. For so much glee, and back pounding of what you have done, Just what did you do, and what happened to create that high fiving. We all knew he was guilty in next few days when all the police filed their reports, and false reporting was then ignored. Question from then was, was he insane, or was he sane, and methodical. And yesterday he was declared sane, and methodical. Now we spend more money, time, effort with more serious problems, in deciding: Life term or death sentence.
      If Life Sentence, he will be released after a few years if our system continues releasing illegal aliens who have killed, raped, done major crimes , as well as our domestic prisoners being released, to make room for future prisoners. If death sentence, we have a Governor now who just could not bring himself to set the date, and actually execute the 3we have on death row now, from Arapahoe County. Kicked the can down the road, and I am surprised those 3 have not been released back to the streets.
      SO WHAT HAVE WE ACCOMPLISHED. As the prisoner in Texas with major felonies, life sentence, killed a guard taking him to his cell in last few days, they have nothing to lose, and Texas does execute. He may now get a date. And as proved yesterday, unknown, living under the Radar, can kill Marines and injure police. All lives are important and matter. SOME MORE THAN OTHERS. DO A MAJOR CRIME, AND MSM – LIBERALS HONOR THE CRIMINAL. Families of Holmes, and his victims have no closure, and still relive it over and over. When my first grandchild died in Hawaii at 26 hours of life of deformed heart at birth, we had closure. We remember Jonathan, though we never held him, kissed him, or told him we loved him. When his cousin (my grandchild) died in Aurora in 2003 of asthma complication, unexpectedly, on first day of school (middle) and laughed -skipped back home in front of her mother and grandmother (my wife), died few hours later, we had same reaction. But we had closure, and we do not blame God, Doctors, or Society. AT MY AGE, PERHAPS I WILL UNDERSTAND THIS SOON, and with the too rapid changes in past 6 years, that cannot come too soon. So I suggest everyone take a deep breath, sit back and ask: What have we accomplished for almost 4 years of expense, rallies, and MSM across this planet? What will change it back to quieter, peaceful living for all? AND WHEN.

      1. We’re not going backward Frank. We move forward with each new generation. That’s life regardless of what you or I think.

        Sorry the last six years of President Obama seems to be a problem for you. Regardless, the good old times are gone and in my opinion, good riddance!

        Sorry to hear about the loss of your grandchild and wife. Been there and done that. It’s tough.

        1. Wife is still living. Two grandchildren lost, first 26 hours of life to deformed heart. Like the Loma Linda baby 4 years later, who received a baboon heart, and lived about 6 months after. Led to heart transplants and repairs on babies now, some still in the womb. Other one was harder to take. My wife and daughter had just returned from a visit to Europe to be with a granddaughter receiving her 1st Masters, at French University. Come back week before, and family went to Chinese Buffet in Aurora. Last time I kissed and hugged her was that evening, as we came out of Restaurant, then I walked to my car, turned and waved to her and her brother. On Monday, after school (1st day middle school) she laughed, skipped ahead of mother and my wife, to her home. Had normal evening with television and games with younger brother, both went up to go to bed at 9 PM, she was found on floor – dead at 10 of Atelectosis – lung and airway disorder. Lungs quit working. (10 years of age) That had never been mentioned, though she had asthma and she had regular checkups with Kaiser. Sen. John Andrews and I had lengthy discussion of Colorado CHIPS program which is so complicated, with lengthy wait and forms. Legal length, 18 pages. Decreased to 13 pages by time we talked. Don’t know now, but no way to complete that without a lawyer, and not sure it can be done without misstatements. Losing 2 grandchildren is tough, so cannot imagine losing a child. We expect it of our seniors, since I am there now too. Thanks for caring.

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