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Formal Sentencing Underway for Colorado Theater Gunman

  • VOA News

James Holmes (R) appears in court for the sentencing phase in his trial, Aug. 24, 2015, at Arapahoe County District Court in Centennial, Colorado.

James Holmes (R) appears in court for the sentencing phase in his trial, Aug. 24, 2015, at Arapahoe County District Court in Centennial, Colorado.

Sobbing victims testified Monday that the Colorado movie theater gunman derailed their lives, as a hearing began at which James Holmes will be formally sentenced to life in prison with no chance of parole.

Rena Medek, the mother of one of the victims, said the July 2012 attack that killed 12 people and wounded 70 others destroyed her career.

"I went back to work after two months," she said. "I was a fryer operator for 34 years. I couldn't do my job. I couldn't concentrate. I was responsible for the whole kitchen and my mind just wasn't my own. All I could think about was my daughter being shot. I had to retire early, earlier than I wanted to. In the second year, I just sat at home. I could barely get up and off the couch. Nothing seemed joyful. Just fear and despair. I will never be the same. I finally went to a doctor and now I'm on antidepressants. Hopefully not for the rest of my life."

Judge Carlos A. Samour Jr. will formally sentence Holmes this week to life in prison on 24 counts of first-degree murder - two for each of those killed in his rampage at a movie theater near Denver.

At least 100 people are expected to testify at this week's three-day hearing. Their testimony will help the judge determine Holmes' sentences on 141 other counts that include attempted murder and an explosives charge.

A jury last month found Holmes, a 27-year-old former neuroscience graduate student from California, guilty of the massacre in a suburban theater during a showing of the Batman film "The Dark Night Rises."

Police testimony during the trial showed Holmes bought a ticket to the midnight screening of the movie and sat in the front row. About 20 minutes into the premier, he left the theater and returned dressed in black, and threw two gas canisters into the audience before opening fire with a 12-gauge shotgun, a semi-automatic assault rifle and a .40 caliber handgun. Police said 76 shots were fired.

During his four-month trial, two court-appointed psychiatrists testified for the prosecution that while the defendant was severely mentally ill, he was sane when he plotted and carried out the massacre.

The defense said Holmes was delusional and schizophrenic, and cannot be held legally accountable.

Jurors, however, rejected the insanity defense and convicted him on July 16 of 165 felony counts. Earlier this month, he was given a sentence of life in prison after a jury failed to unanimously agree on the death penalty for him.

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