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James Holmes' mother speaks on behalf of shooter at final hearing

In what were largely symbolic proceedings, victims, survivors, and family members spoke prior to Holmes sentencing. 

RJ Sangosti/The Denver Post/AP
James Holmes appears in court for the sentencing phase in his trial, Monday, at Arapahoe County District Court in Centennial, Colo. Victims and their families were given the opportunity to speak about the shooting and its effects on their lives. Holmes was convicted Aug. 7 of murdering 12 people when he opened fire on a crowded movie theater in 2012.

The only person to testify on behalf of James Holmes was his mother, who said she has been researching mental illness and ways to prevent mass violence since the 2012 shooting at the movie theater in Aurora, Colo.

She expressed regret for not knowing more about mental illness, or their family history, and testified that Mr. Holmes feels remorse for his deadly attack, but that his mental illness and medications make it hard for him to express it. 

"I am not proud I didn't know a lot about mental illness. We should have known our family history better and realized that the signs of mental illness can surface at an early age," said Arlene Holmes, who previously testified that she didn't know her son suffered from schizophrenia until after the shooting. "We want to share our knowledge with those who want to speak with us."

The testimony was a kind of impromptu apology for the violence her son wrought three summers ago.

"We know that is very, very hard for people to see," Mrs. Holmes testified during her son's final sentencing hearing, with her husband at her side. "We cannot feel the depths of your pain. We can only listen to everything you have expressed, and we pray for you... We are very sorry this tragedy happened, and sorry everyone has suffered so much."

More than 100 victims and survivors testified about the physical and emotional fallout – recounting nightmares, flashbacks, and pain – of the shooting on July 20, 2012 that left 12 dead. Victims spoke of lost friendships and ended marriages. The mother of one of the survivors told the court her 13-year-old daughter watched her 6-year-old friend die. Following the event, she struggled in school, her mother said, and when she switched schools she became known as "the girl in the theater."

Jurors convicted Holmes of murdering 12 and attempting to kill the 70 others in the busy theater that night, and rejecting Holmes' insanity plea. Prosecutors have said the jury was divided on the sentence, with 11 wanting a death sentence and one in favor of life without parole. Under Colorado law, jurors must be unanimous to impose the death penalty, so Holmes will be sentenced to life.

The sentencing of life in prison without the chance for parole for the murders of 12 people and up to 3,318 additional years on attempted murder and an explosives conviction, will take place Wednesday.

Holmes will not appeal his conviction, sparing victims the possibility of another emotionally wrenching trial, his defense attorney Daniel King said Tuesday.

This report contains material from the Associated Press.

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