Nearly three years ago, James Eagan Holmes walked into a movie theater in Aurora, Colorado, during a midnight showing of “The Dark Knight Rises” and committed one of the deadliest mass shootings in U.S. history.
Holmes, a 27-year-old former neuroscience Ph.D. candidate, has admitted that he killed 12 people and wounded 70 in the July 20, 2012, massacre. His defense team has entered a “not guilty by reason of insanity” plea, putting the burden on the prosecution to prove that Holmes was sane at the time of the shooting.
Holmes’ fate was turned over to a jury Wednesday, one day after both sides of the legal aisle delivered their closing arguments. To understand how the prosecution made its case, here are the six key points made by District Attorney George Brauchler:
1. Holmes bought and used firearms methodically. In his closing arguments, Brauchler broke down how Holmes bought firearms over an extended period of time so as to not raise suspicions, as well as what he did with those firearms prior to the crime. He detailed how Holmes bought specific weapons, practiced on life-size silhouettes, and used steel “Penetrator” ammunition instead of traditional rounds. In total, Holmes “brought 700 rounds of ammo” to the theater, and he didn’t stop shooting until he had run out of bullets.
2. Holmes surveyed the theater before his attack: He knew the number of exits in each theater and dismissed some locations because there were too many. According to Brauchler, that shows Holmes knew what he was doing was objectionable to his victims, and that he didn’t want them to get away. “Patience is paramount with this guy” the district attorney argued, noting that Holmes waited for the victims to take their seats in the theater.
3. Holmes had intent. Brauchler lyrically reiterated the legal definition of “intent” by repeating what Holmes’ “conscious objective” was in the planning, preparation, and execution of the shooting.
4. The victims were real people. Instead of isolating a portion of his summation to discuss the victims, the district attorney interspersed their stories within his description of Holmes’ timeline, a strategic move designed to give the jury a mental break from the horror of Holmes’ crime to feel the heartbreak of so many lost lives.5. Holmes is not insane. After Brauchler gave a laundry list of examples of Holmes’ ability to “problem solve,” such as buying a first-aid kit in case he was injured, the district attorney exclaimed powerfully, “That is logical, that is rational, and that is anything but psychotic.” Later, Brauchler pointed out that Holmes even continued seeing a doctor in order to avoid raising suspicions.
6. Holmes wanted to be remembered. Refuting the defense’s argument, the district attorney described Holmes as narcissistic rather than insane, saying “This guy is absorbed with himself. He’s desperate to be remembered. He’s desperate to be wanted.”
Brauchler aimed for a strong finish with his final closing remarks, saying “[Holmes] knew what he was doing … It was just about killing,” and finally: “Sane, sane, sane. Guilty. Thank you.”