The judge who oversaw Colorado theater shooter James Holmes' trial gave an impassioned defense of the jury and the process Monday after the mother of one of the wounded said Holmes' life sentence showed more concern for Holmes than for the victims.
"You can't claim there was no justice because it wasn't the outcome you expected," Judge Carlos A. Samour Jr. said in an unusual speech from the bench during Holmes' formal sentencing hearing for the 2012 attack.
Samour 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.
Samour spoke after Kathleen Pourciau testified that her daughter, Bonnie Kate Pourciau, suffers constant, excruciating pain and terrible nightmares from the gunshot wounds she suffered at Holmes' hand.
Kathleen Pourciau said 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.
Afterward, she sat quietly and nodded but showed no other reaction as Samour defended the trial.
Holmes murdered 12 people and tried to kill 70 more when he opened fire during a packed midnight showing of "The Dark Knight Rises." His attorneys blamed the massacre on his schizophrenia and psychotic delusions, and experts testified that it wouldn't have happened if he were not seriously mentally ill.
Jurors quickly rejected his insanity defense, convicting him on July 16 of 165 felony counts. But they were divided on the sentence, with 11 favoring death and one favoring life in prison without parole. Under Colorado law, jurors must be unanimous to impose the death penalty, so Holmes automatically got life.
Samour will formally hand down the life sentences for 24 murder convictions — two for each victim — after a three-day hearing that began Monday. He'll also sentence Holmes on the 141 other counts, which include attempted murder and an explosives charge.
The hearing won't change the life sentence but gives survivors a chance to share their harrowing stories.
At least 100 victims and witnesses are expected to testify. Holmes will also have an opportunity to speak, though he declined to do so during his trial.
Two jurors who heard the case — including an alternate who didn't participate in the deliberations — sat in the gallery listening to the testimony Monday.
Holmes wore a burgundy jail uniform and sat shackled at the defense table Monday. He showed little emotion and twiddled his thumbs as Pourciau and others described the physical pain, the grief and the despair his rampage caused.
"There's no human language that can convey the pain I have witnessed seize ahold of my family," said Kristian Cowden, whose father Gordon Cowden was the oldest of those killed.
Cowden and her sister, Brooke, spoke in trembling, tearful voices as they talked about how their father's death shattered their lives and left them in a black hole of sorrow.
Brooke Cowden described "drowning in pain and sadness."
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.