Judge Carlos Samour will soon render his final decision in the Colorado Theater Shooting trial–a case he has handled for years.
James Holmes’s sentencing is scheduled to begin this morning at 8:40 am MST/10:40 am EST. Judge Samour will impose Holmes’s sentence for the 140 counts (70 victims) of attempted murder and 1 count of possession of an incendiary or explosive device. The jury’s August 7 deadlock on a death sentence means Holmes’s sentence for the 24 murder counts (12 victims) defaults to a sentence of life without parole which will also be imposed by the judge.
This sentencing hearing could last more than a day; in fact, the court set aside 3 days for it. Why so long? All the victims of attempted murder have a right to speak or submit statements. Similarly, family members of the murder victims may also be heard. These statements are in addition to what the jury heard in the penalty phase of the trial. At that phase, only victims whose loved ones died could testify. At the sentencing hearing today, the survivors now have a chance to speak about the impact on their lives. Statements at this final stage also are not subject to the same restrictions as testimony before the jury. Victims and survivors can point at Holmes, yell at him, ask the judge to give him the maximum, etc. These things could not be said in front of the jury.
Click here to read the relevant Colorado state constitutional provision and statutes that give victims the right to be heard at sentencing.
I also suspect that Judge Samour will make a lengthy statement before imposing the sentence. Each attempted murder count is a class 2 felony which carries a sentence of 8 to 24 years. It appears, however, that the maximum sentence is double–48 years–for each count because these are “crimes of violence” as defined under Colorado law. (Some states have enhancements because of the use of a gun in the commission of the crime.) The two counts per victim (under two theories of how the crime was committed) will merge for sentencing purposes so that Holmes will receive 12 LWOPs, 70 sentences for attempted murder and 1 sentence for possession of an explosive/incendiary device. Each sentence can be made consecutive to each other because there are 82 victims.
The hearing will open up the wounds and likely get emotional as victims and survivors address the judge. I also won’t be surprised if some of the jurors show up to watch the final phase.
Victim Gordon Cowden’s daughter is the first to stand at the podium and address the judge. The judge asked that the statements be addressed to him. I suppose that’s because sentencing is the judge’s decision. (I believe that comments meant for Holmes can still be made but made while directing them at the judge.)
Brooke Cowden, another daughter, is next. She, too, is very emotional and is reading a prepared statement.
Brauchler is crying as he reads a statement by Jessica Ghawi’s 15-year-old brother Benjamin.
Aurora PD commander is speaking on behalf of the entire police department. He’s also crying. The first responders also suffered much like those in combat, he says.
Alex Sullivan’s sister is next.
Orman reads a statement by John Larimer’s brother. William Hoover, grandfather of AJ is next.
(I missed a few statements.)
The mother of Bonnie Kate is giving the most unbelievable statement!
The video of Caleb Medley performing stand up comedy is so sad, and Holmes watched the screen as it played though his attorneys did not.