Death Penalty Still Possible In Theater Shooting Trial

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The third phase of the James Holmes trial will begin Tuesday morning. The verdict in phase two means the death penalty is still on the table for Holmes.

In phase three, which is the final phase of sentencing, relatives of those killed will testify. This phase is expected to last 2-3 days.

Jurors found that the massacre at the movie theater outweighed the defense's claim of mental illness. Holmes sat emotionless as the verdict was announced Monday.

11 News was at the Arapahoe County Courthouse when the verdict came down. We talked to one of the victim's parents after the verdict was read.

Jessica Ghawi's mother says she's going to testify Tuesday. She said she wasn't sure the trial would make it this far.

"I haven't thought about it at all, quite frankly, because I didn't know if we get to this point," said Sandy Phillips. "So for George to call me in today and say you're going to testify tomorrow, I'm a little overwhelmed. But at the same time, my job is to share Jessie with the jury, so I'll do that to the best of my ability."

She also talked about whether they think Holmes should be sentenced to death.

"We've had a lot of talks about this over the last three years," said Sandy. "I've always been against the death penalty but hearing the testimony, hearing the witnesses, seeing the disregard for life, having no remorse, no compassion, there are some people that should get the death sentence-- and if he's one of them, then he's one of them."

Her husband, Lonnie Phillips, said he wanted Holmes to go away, and he wasn't sure if the death penalty would really accomplish that.

"If he gets the death penalty, we're going to continue to see him. If I had my way, he would go to prison the rest of his life and not have to go through the appeals process where we have to look at his face and hear his name again."

The jury previously found Holmes guilty of 24 capital murder counts, two for each killing. After that first phase of the trial, 11 News talked to a local lawyer to get some insight on what could happen if Holmes is sentenced to death.

"If it's a death penalty sentence, the state of Colorado automatically allows, or grants, an appeal on behalf of the defendant," said attorney Don Alan "Mo" Frederick. "I’d like to make it clear that it’s not the defendant asking for this, it’s that state of Colorado that automatically grants appeals on death sentences.”

The judge said the trial is expected to wrap up at the latest at the end of August. In addition to coverage of the Holmes trial, the judge asked jurors to avoid all media reports about the recent theater shooting in Louisiana.

Ghawi's parents say they hope the trial will have far-reaching implications that go beyond Holmes' fate.

"We made it through. We're still standing. And hopefully will be able to use this trial to help get some movement on background checks. We're going to try to stay as active as we can," Lonnie Phillips said.