In final bid for closure, Colorado shooting victims take stand one last time

Some 100 witnesses, including survivors, victims' families, and responders, are scheduled to testify in the final phase of sentencing over the next three days.

RJ Sangosti/The Denver Post/AP
James Holmes (r.) appears in court for the sentencing phase in his trial on Monday, at Arapahoe County District Court in Centennial, Colo.

Survivors of the 2012 massacre in Aurora, Colo., are taking the stand one last time, in the final phase of sentencing for convicted murderer James Holmes.

The three-day hearing began Monday and survivors, including police officers who responded to the shooting, are sharing their accounts of the incident and the hardships they have endured since.

At least 100 victims and witnesses are expected to testify about the crime's impact. James Holmes killed 12 people and wounded 70 others at a midnight screening of the Batman movie “The Dark Knight Rises” on July 20, 2012.

Aurora Police Cmdr. Michael Dailey spoke of the psychological challenges that he and his colleagues faced in the aftermath of the shooting, mentioning that many responders have struggled with depression and nightmares since that night.

Megan Sullivan, whose brother was killed during the attack, described during the hearing how she became an only child after Holmes murdered Alex Sullivan.

"There's no replacement for my brother, and no amount of justice will make up for the loss," said Ms. Sullivan, her voice choked with emotion.

Mr. Holmes showed no visible reaction as witnesses addressed the court. The jury has already convicted Holmes of the killings and determined that he should spend life in prison. This hearing is a formality during which Arapahoe County District Court Judge Carlos Samour will formally impose the penalties.

The Christian Science Monitor reported last April that Holmes’ trial took years to begin, as he underwent psychiatric evaluations and both sides filed motions about the death penalty and the insanity plea.

In May 2013 he pleaded not guilty by reason of insanity and on June 3, 2013 his plea was accepted.

During the hearing survivors have a chance to share their stories with the judge, but it won't change Holmes' sentence.

The judge also must sentence Holmes on 141 other counts that include attempted murder and an explosives charge.

In total, the California native could be sentenced to a maximum of 3,313 years in prison for his crimes, in addition to mandatory life sentences.

This report includes material from Reuters and the Associated Press.

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