Family Seeks Mercy, not Death, for ‘Jimmy’

     DENVER (CN) – James Holmes’ schizophrenia was not his fault, his mother told the jury that is deliberating whether to sentence the mass murderer to death or life in prison.
     The capital trial on 165 counts, including 12 murders, went to the Arapahoe County jury Thursday afternoon, and Holmes’ parents and younger sister described what the now-27-year-old Holmes was like before he barged into a Century 16 movie theater and killed 12 people and wounded 70 three years ago.
     His mother, Arlene Holmes, recalled friends and neighbors telling her she was “lucky,” when Holmes was born.
     “He was such a happy baby,” Arlene said. “I’d take him out in the stroller and people would say ‘you’re lucky … you’re lucky.'”
     Holmes’ father, Robert, told the court that his son was “an excellent kid.”
     “He never harmed anyone, ever, ever, until July 20, 2012,” Arlene said.
     Holmes’ sister, Chris Holmes, recalled “Jimmy” being an “analytical and mathematical,” child, who was “oftentimes in his head,” and “a little socially awkward.”
     His mother recalled his scrupulous attention to detail, such as his system, when he was 9, for organizing his “Goosebump” books.
     “His toys, his books and everything were lined up,” she said. He arranged his “Goosebumps” books by “order of acquisition.”
     District Attorney George Brauchler, the lead prosecutor, paid particular attention to Holmes’ meticulous organization, including the purchase of a bulletproof suit, of multiple magazines worth of ammunition, and the research necessary to booby trap his apartment with homemade bombs for police he knew would arrive after his murders.
     This clear-headed organization, Brauchler said, showed a person far different from the insane schizophrenic the defense described throughout the trial.
     Holmes’ family and attorneys focused on his softer childhood traits, his charity work, his love of his two dogs, Zoomby and Wimby, and the taciturn but thoughtful nature that crumbled under his schizoaffective disorder, a mental illness that runs in the Holmes family.
     “Schizophrenia chose him. He didn’t choose it,” his mother said. “I understand he has a serious mental illness. He didn’t ask for that.”
     In Brauchler’s closing arguments, he implored the jury not to let Holmes use his mental illness as “a shield.”
     “Is mental illness going to be a shield here to protect someone who had the capacity to make decisions?” Brauchler asked. “Nobody in their right mind could plan the massacre of a theater full of human beings. We should take comfort in that.”
     His attorneys cited his early interest in the brain and neuroscience as a desire to “fix” his mind. They claim he was aware that his brain was “abnormal,” eventually turning him into someone his mother says was “completely different.”
     “Many times through his adolescence I tried to check in and say, are you sure you still want neuroscience?” his mother said. “He decided at 14 and never changed his mind. I said, you know, think it over. People explore options, and whatever you choose should be OK.”
     When she saw him three weeks after the shootings, “He had trouble finding each and every word,” his mother said. “Each word, it was chopped, like he couldn’t just say a sentence. And he didn’t look at us, he just looked down. His hair was red. He was in jail scrubs, not clothes, and his feet were shackled. His eyes were kind of darting back and forth.
     “They weren’t like now, now he can look.” She paused to look at her son, sitting a few feet from her. “He’s looking at me,” she said.
     “But in 2012, they were just not controllable. His eyeballs were – the word bulging has been used and I can’t think of a better word. Physically different, and unable to communicate in the same way as usual.”
     The jury must sentence Holmes to death or life in prison.

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