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by Peter Mertz

DENVER Mike Evans Buccaneers Jersey , the United States, July 23 (Xinhua) -- U.S. Prosecutors on Thursday cleared the first of three hurdles they face before Colorado shooter James Holmes, convicted despite the defense's "not guilty by reason of insanity" plea, can be given death penalty by court.

In a court trial last week, the jury of 12 decided Holmes, who killed 12 and injured 70 in the Batman movie shooting spree three years ago, committed an act heinous enough to move them into the second phase of the hearing that now highlights positive aspects of Holmes' character.

On Thursday afternoon Jameis Winston Buccaneers Jersey , the defense rallied resoundingly with a powerful opening plea by attorney Rebecca Higgs, and a barrage of witnesses who showed support for the mass murderer and his family.

Higgs asked the jury not "to forgive Holmes" but to show him "compassion and understanding," and opened jurors' eyes when her voice flashed with anger.

"We don't kill people for being sick," she said emphatically, ending the defense's two-minute opening argument in the second of three phases that may end as early as next Tuesday.

The final death penalty decision will not be made until after Phase Three, possibly as early as mid-August, if Phase Two ends as expected with the jury still on track for execution.

If only one of the three men and nine woman jury has "doubts" and "pauses" about executing Holmes Mike Alstott Buccaneers Jersey , the killer will avoid lethal injection and spend the rest of his life in jail.

District Attorney George Brauchler, leading the death penalty seeking prosecution, reminded the jury they already found Holmes guilty on all 24 counts of murder (two per person).

Brauchler used the word "aggravated" several times to punctuate the criteria necessary to expedite a final death penalty decree.

Higgs reminded the jury they are no longer bound by the rigid definition of "insanity" they used for dismissing Holmes' "not guilty by reason of insanity" plea last week.

The defense has insisted that at the time of committing the crime, Holmes suffered schizophrenia and was therefore "insane", which, if medically proven, could well prevent Holmes from receiving a death sentence.

The prosecution seems to be conceding the second phase of the hearing Ali Marpet Youth Jersey , with lawyer Rich Orman delivering few objections to the defense's far-reaching appeals.

They wait for the final, third phase of the hearing, where they are expected to devastate the courtroom audience again with graphic first-hand images and accounts of the nightmare in Theater 9 on that hot summer night on 2012.

The Century 6 Multiplex was filled with tear gas by Holmes, who stood next to the screen and unleashed three weapons and hundreds of bullets onto the unsuspecting audience.

"You are now responsible for his (Holmes') life...you will see from the evidence that the reasonable explanation for this crime is a psychotic breakdown...a broken mind," Higgs said.

Defense attorney Rich Orman backed away from objections because defense lawyers have the authority to stretch an emotional appeal beyond normal courtroom etiquette, in a last ditch attempt to spare their client from the death penalty.

Higgs then produced 10 witnesses, some knowing the Holmes' for 20 years Donovan Smith Youth Jersey , who all said they cared or "vouched" for Holmes and his family.

James Posteraro, Holmes' middle school band teacher called him a "good boy."

Suzanne Diaz, the secretary in Holmes' elementary school, remembered him well and said that she "loved him... and all the kids," and that she made the trip to support "Jimmy" and his family.

Meanwhile, the victims, friends and families side of the courtroom was virtually empty with only seven people in attendance Noah Spence Youth Jersey , in the wake of the guilty conviction of Holmes.

Holmes' parents ,who have faithfully attended every day in court since the trial began in April, were described as "engaged" and "involved" parents by several witnesses.

The witnesses who took the stand were a smattering of people who interacted regularly with Holmes from early childhood to just three years before the July 20, 2012 killings.

"I never saw Jimmy smiling," said track coach Lori Godwin, describing Holmes "as a shadow figure" who rarely interacted with others and stood on the edge, alone Vernon Hargreaves III Youth Jersey , during parties.

Buy Holmes "showed up" week after week, a poor performer, who showed great determination, Godwin told the court.

She also remembered a time Holmes delayed a team photo of about 40 members because of his incredible shyness. The photo was taken twice because Holmes disappeared from the back of the throng and had to be bullied into participating.

This highly aberrant behavior fits psychiatrists' definition of the withdrawal that accompanies severe schizophrenia.

Maurice Scruggs, Holmes' high school English teacher, read the court a glowing letter of recommendation he wrote for Holmes nine years ago.

It said Holmes was bright, hard working DeSean Jackson Youth Jersey , and positive who had the "mature ability to see the absurdness around him...yet could be productive," who "stretched the boundaries of his knowledge."

William Reese, Holmes' classmate and friend in junior and senior high school, said he and Holmes were similar: "quiet, intelligent kids who kept to ourselves."

The defense has built an ironclad case that Holmes showed glaring, early signs of schizophrenia, that were established in court Thursday.

If this "mitigating factor" causes one juror "to pause Mike Evans Youth Jersey ," as defense attorney Dan King argued in the trials' closing argument two weeks ago, then Holmes' life will be immediately spared and the trial is over.

However, the defense appears to be fighting an uphill battle, as the jury has shown clear signs of wanting to dispatch of the case quickly and condemn Holmes to death.
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