James Holmes — the man who carried out a 2012 shooting rampage that killed 12 people in a Colorado movie theater during a midnight premiere of “The Dark Knight Rises” — has been sentenced to life in prison without the possibility of parole, rather than the death penalty, on Friday.
The jury of nine women and three men deliberated for about six and a half hours over two days and could not unanimously agree on a death sentence.
They rejected Holmes’ insanity defense and convicted him of murdering 12 people and trying to kill 70 others three years ago inside a midnight premiere of a Batman movie in Aurora, Colorado.
As the courtroom waited for Judge Carlos Samour Jr. to review the verdict, only the sound of him turning pages could be heard. He warned people in the court against making an emotional outbursts and then began reading the verdict forms.
On each count, Judge Samour read, the panel had been unable to agree that Holmes should be put to death, and jurors understood that as a result, the court would impose a sentence of life imprisonment. Only one juror needed to dissent for the sentence to be life in prison.
Holmes, who was convicted last month of more than 160 counts of murder and attempted murder, offered little emotion, staring straight ahead and standing with his hands in his pockets.
In the hours before the sentencing, jurors had asked to review a 45-minute video of the graphic crime scene before deciding whether to give Holmes the death penalty.
Prosecutors argued that he should join the three other men on Colorado’s death row. They argued that his mental illness didn’t prevent him from acting “rationally” elsewhere in his life, and the defendant must be held accountable for the mass murder.
The defense argued the shooting was the result of a psychotic breakdown of a mentally ill youth and that death is not an appropriate sentence for someone diagnosed with schizophrenia.
Survivors of the attack and victims’ family members disagreed on which sentence is appropriate. Some believed Holmes’ execution would help ease their pain, while others worried about the decades of appeals that typically come with the death penalty.
When the verdict was read one man stormed out, others wept. Holmes’ mother also sobbed uncontrollably after pleading for her son’s life to be spared, and Holmes’ father had his arm around her.
CBS Denver reported that Holmes smiled at his lawyers and thanked them after the verdict was read.
In Colorado, the death penalty was re-instated in 1975 and is conducted by lethal injection. The last time it was used was in 1997 for Gary Lee Davis, and the most recent death row sentencing was Robert Ray in 2009.