Denver - A fifth-grade teacher of Colorado theatre shooter James Holmes described him as a pleasant, productive student, providing an early glimpse of how defence attorneys will try to save his life.
Paul Karrer gave videotaped testimony on Monday because he is unavailable to take the stand during the sentencing phase of Holmes' trial, which begins Wednesday and could last a month. The video will be played for jurors later.
A jury last week quickly convicted Holmes of killing 12 people and wounding 70 more during a crowded midnight movie premiere, rejecting defence arguments that he was insane and suffering delusions that drove him to the July 20, 2012, attack. Now the trial enters a new phase as the jury decides whether Holmes should receive the death penalty or be sentenced to life without the possibility of parole.
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Karrer's testimony signalled a defence strategy that will try to humanize Holmes and offer a sympathetic portrayal of his childhood in California. Holmes was "a really bright kid, he was the kind of kid that makes teaching very rewarding, makes you want to keep on doing what you do," said Karrer, repeatedly referring to Holmes as "Jimmy." He said he still cares about Holmes.
"He was a smiler," Karrer said. "The kids liked him. There was no dark side."
Defence attorneys will likely call others who knew Holmes throughout his life, including neighbours and possibly his parents, who attended every day of his 11-week trial.
Prosecutors, who are seeking the death penalty, may counter with even more heartbreaking accounts from victims, ranging from those Holmes maimed to the father of the youngest to die in the shooting, a 6-year-old girl.
Jurors will have fewer instructions to guide them in the sentencing phase, relying instead on their own personal and moral beliefs to guide them. That jurors swiftly rejected Holmes' insanity defence doesn't mean they'll come to a speedy conclusion about his punishment.