Families of the 12 people James Holmes killed and the scores he injured in a packed movie theater were relieved that jurors only needed 12 hours to reject the idea that he was legally insane when he opened fire. Now the trial enters a new phase as the jury decides whether Holmes should die for his crimes. Starting next week, jurors will hear testimony about Holmes' mental illness and his childhood. Prosecutors may counter with even more heartbreaking accounts from victims, ranging from those Holmes maimed to the father of his youngest victim, a 6-year-old girl who died in the 2012 attack.
The verdict came after 11 months of grueling testimony, and experts say the sentencing phase, which could easily take a month, could prove even more emotionally wrenching as survivors describe the impact of the shooting on their daily lives. It will be a harder decision for jurors, says defense attorney Karen Steinhauser, who is not involved in the Holmes case. That jurors swiftly rejected Holmes' insanity defense doesn't mean they'll come to a speedy conclusion about his punishment. "They're going to have to decide, for someone who is mentally ill, if a death sentence is the right punishment," she says. "It ends up being a much more personal decision." If just one juror disagrees with a death sentence, Holmes, 27, will be sent to prison for life.