CENTENNIAL, Colo. (AP) — The grandfather of the youngest victim in the Colorado theater shootings suggested Monday that one juror might have improperly blocked the death penalty for James Holmes by being untruthful about her beliefs, drawing a forceful rebuke from the judge.
“That’s unfair and that’s improper,” Judge Carlos A. Samour Jr. told Robert Sullivan after Sullivan suggested the sole juror who voted against the death penalty might have intended all along to make sure Holmes got a life sentence.
Sullivan’s surprise allegation came near the end of the first day of testimony from victims and family members about the searing emotional and physical scars the shooting has left. At the end of the three-day hearing, Samour will formally sentence Holmes to life without parole and up to 3,318 additional years on attempted murder convictions.
Jurors rejected Holmes’ insanity plea and convicted him of murdering 12 people and trying to murder 70 others when he opened fire on a packed theater in suburban Denver on July 20, 2012. Sullivan’s granddaughter, 6-year-old Veronica Moser-Sullivan, was the youngest killed.
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The jury was divided on the sentence, with 11 favoring death and one favoring life without parole. Under Colorado law, jurors must be unanimous to impose the death penalty, so Holmes automatically got life.
After lovingly describing Veronica’s short life and calling her “my angel,” Sullivan called the sentence immoral and reprehensible. Asked by Samour what he meant, Sullivan said the holdout juror had “a moral purpose, and that is to save this one from the death sentence,” he said, pointing at Holmes at the defense table.
“That is making a mockery of the system,” Sullivan said. “I would like to see the court go after that juror.”
Samour said he understood the victims are hurting but said speculating on misconduct was unacceptable.
“I don’t have any basis in front of me or any reason anyone has put in front of me (to conclude) there was deception,” he said.
District Attorney George Brauchler also defended the jury and disputed Sullivan’s allegation.
“Not taking anything away from the pain of Mr. Sullivan … as the district attorney in this district, I do not share that belief,” he said.
It was the second time Samour defended the jury Monday. Kathleen Pourciau, whose daughter Bonnie Kate Pourciau was seriously wounded, said earlier that the sentence showed little respect for life.
“The message is the state of Colorado values a mass murderer more than the lives of those he murdered,” she said, speaking from a lectern facing Samour and occasionally turning toward the attorneys and the packed gallery behind her.
“You can’t claim there was no justice because it wasn’t the outcome you expected,” Samour responded. He said the jury was fair and impartial and that he tried his utmost to be the same.
“And that’s how you know it was justice,” he said.
Pourciau sat quietly and nodded but showed no other reaction as Samour spoke.
She and Sullivan were among more than 18 people who told Samour about the physical pain, the grief and despair caused by Holmes’ rampage.
Two jurors who heard the case — including an alternate who didn’t participate in the deliberations — sat in the gallery listening. Holmes, shackled and wearing a jail uniform, showed little emotion and sometimes twiddled his thumbs.
Holmes’ attorneys have said his reactions and demeanor are clouded by medications he takes for schizophrenia.
Pourciau testified that her daughter suffers constant, excruciating pain and terrible nightmares from the gunshot wounds she suffered at Holmes’ hand.
Sisters Kristian and Brooke Cowden spoke in trembling, tearful voices as they talked about how their lives were shattered when their father, Gordon Cowden, was killed.
Tom Teves, whose son Alex was killed, called Holmes an evil coward and also denounced the defense attorneys as “agents of evil” who were trying to advance their own careers.
Aurora Police Cmdr. Michael Dailey spoke of the emotional trauma that he and other officers — including his wife, an Aurora officer — suffered in the chaotic and bloody aftermath of the shooting.
He called Holmes a monster who should be banished from public sight and forgotten.
“I hope that every day is painful for him. I hope that prison is not kind to him,” Dailey said. “I hope prison gives him his just rewards.”
Associated Press writer Dan Elliott in Denver contributed to this report.