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Down to the Wire: Colorado Law and What Happens Next


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The defense rested its case in the Theater Shooting trial
today. And in a surprise move, the prosecution opted not to bring in a psychiatrist witness for rebuttal. The jury has been excused until closing arguments start, which is this coming Tuesday. They appeared relieved as they left the courtroom on this, the 47th day of trial.


IF NOT GUILTY BY REASON OF INSANITY:

If James Holmes is found not guilty by reason of insanity (NGRI), there will be press conferences outside of the courthouse by the prosecution and with victims’ families. No word on whether the defense will talk.

It will be over. He will be sent to the Colorado Mental Health Institute in Pueblo. Though some people eventually get out and there is a possibility Holmes will too, I am told it won’t happen.

IF GUILTY:

If James Holmes is found guilty, then we immediately head to the sentencing phase, which will take a month. A whole new trial starts complete with opening statements and testimony. Holmes’ family is expected to testify on his mental condition, including his mysterious sister, Chris, who has been in court 2-3 times. She is a wild card. It is unclear how good their relationship was growing up; athough much has been made in testimony about a “backhand” the defendant gave Chris when she threw a basketball at his face. Holmes himself said yesterday that he will not testify.

In Colorado, there are 4 stages the jury must consider if they are going to give Mr. Holmes the death penalty:

1. Aggravated factors. (did he use weapons? Yes he did)

2. Mitigating factors (background, character of the defendant, school records, mental state, parents and sister testify etc)

3. Here the jury must weigh whether or not the aggravating factors outweigh the mitigating factors. If they do, then they go on to the 4th phase.

4. Morality. This is the last phase and the most crucial. Colorado is one of the only states which have this 4th phase. Here the jurors get one more chance to look inside their gut and ask “Morally, can I be responsible for this defendant’s death?” If all 12 can do this, then James Holmes will get the death penalty.

There will be automatic appeals at the state level and then at the federal level and even to the Supreme Court.

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Explanatory multimedia reporting from CU Boulder journalism students
Down to the Wire: Colorado Law and What Happens Next