Jurors Begin New Deliberations After Theater Shooter’s Mother Testifies

Photo: Robert and Arlene Holmes (AP Photo)
Robert and Arlene Holmes, parents of Aurora theater shooter James Holmes, walk from the courtroom at the Arapahoe County Justice Center for a hearing in the 2012 Colorado movie theatre shooting case, July 22, 2014, in Centennial, Colo.

Posted 10 a.m. Wednesday| Last Update 7:30 a.m. Thursday

Jurors in the Aurora theater shooting trial in Colorado will begin another round of deliberations Thursday. 

They’re deciding whether mitigating factors, such as Holmes' mental illness, outweigh the aggravating factors that made him eligible for the death penalty. If the jury doesn't find that, they will move to a third round of deliberations for Holmes' sentence.

The mother of the Aurora theater shooting gunman was the last to testify on her son's behalf. Arlene Holmes' testimony at her son's sentencing represents her first public comments since the trial began.

She told the jury she was stunned when, three years ago he stormed a midnight premier of The Dark Knight Rises killing 12 people and injuring 70 more.

"I was totally shocked that he used a gun, we never had guns in the house, we never were hunters or target shooters," she said. "When I heard, I thought, ‘how does he even know how to use a gun?’

Arlene Holmes also says her son's psychiatrist never told the family that James Holmes had been talking about killing people when she called about a month before the attack.

Fighting back tears, she said she "would have been crawling on all fours" to reach her son in Colorado had she known her son was talking about killing. "We wouldn't be here" if Dr. Lynne Fenton had told them, she said.

Fenton testified earlier that she called his parents to help her decide whether he posed a danger to himself or others after he dropped out of school and quit his therapy.

Arlene Holmes has attended nearly every day of her son's trial along with her husband, Robert, but this is the first time she has testified or spoken publicly during the trial.

Her appearance follows testimony from her husband and their 22-year-old daughter this week. James Holmes has chosen not to testify in the latest phase of his sentencing hearing. He gave clear, direct answers when Judge Carlos A. Samour Jr. asked about the decision Wednesday. Prosecutors would have had the opportunity to cross-examine Holmes had he chosen to testify.

Arlene Holmes, meanwhile, was asked by the public defender Wednesday why she still loves her son.

"He has a serious mental illness," she said. "He didn’t ask for that.  Schizophrenia chose him, he didn’t choose it.  And I still love my son."

She says if she knew he wanted to kill people she could have helped him.  But she had no inkling he was planning a mass shooting.  She said he never hurt anyone before the attack.

Holmes father, Robert, testified earlier that his son "was not a violent person" until he killed 12 people and injured 70 others in a packed movie premiere three years ago.

During testimony Wednesday, Robert Holmes referred to the 2012 attack as "the event" several times. In response to questions from a prosecutor, he said of his son wasn't violent "until the event."

At one point, he mouthed something to his son and the two of them smiled before a sheriff's deputy told the elder Holmes to stop.