James Holmes sentenced to life in prison
James Holmes sentenced to life in prison for Colorado movie theater murders.
Centennial, Colorado (CNN)James Holmes will spend the rest of his life in prison for killing 12 people and wounding 70 more at an Aurora, Colorado, movie theater.
A jury was unable Friday to reach a unanimous sentencing verdict, which results in life in prison without parole instead of the death penalty for Holmes, who had pleaded not guilty by reason of insanity in the 2012 shootings. He was convicted last month of 24 counts of first-degree murder — two for each of the slain victims.
The 12-member jury reached a decision after deliberating almost seven hours since late Thursday. As they walked back into the courtroom shortly after 5 p.m. (7 p.m. ET), they made no eye contact with anyone. Some had a grim face. Some were ashen.
Holmes stood with his hands in his pockets as Judge Carlos Samour read the sentencing verdicts.
One female juror later told reporters that there was no way to resolve the disagreement on what the sentence should be.
“There was one firm holdout against the death penalty and two … who were on the fence,” said the juror, who would not give her name. “I don’t know if they could have been swayed or not.”
She said the graphic nature of the evidence made the 15-week trial very difficult. She called it a life-changing experience.
Motional reaction from some
After the judge read on the first count that the jurors couldn’t reach the unanimous decision required for the death penalty, Holmes’ mother, Arlene, began crying and she put her head on her husband Robert’s shoulder. She sagged into him and he held her up.
As the judge read on, several people in the area where family members and survivors had been sitting heeded the judge’s prior admonition and left the courtroom instead of reacting emotionally.
DA believes he failed
Arapahoe County District Attorney George Brauchler told reporters outside the courthouse that he respects the outcome, even if he disagrees with it.
“As frustrated as I am at not achieving the result we wanted, those jurors did a hell of a job,” he said. “I am disappointed at the outcome, I’m not disappointed with the system. I still think death is justice for what that guy did but the system said otherwise.”
Brauchler said it was his fault that he couldn’t get a death penalty result for the families.
Holmes’ parents declined to speak to the media but issued a statement through an attorney.
“The Holmes family is unable to make any comment at this time other than to say that they are deeply sorry this has happened, and they are so sorry that the victims and families have suffered such tremendous loss,” Lisa Damiani said in a press statement.
Sandy Phillips wore an emerald green pashmina shawl that belonged to her slain daughter. Phillips said that she and her husband have always said they didn’t care whether the killer got life or death.
But “today what was hard for me was accepting (the sentences) for the others” who wanted to see Holmes die, she said.
“We didn’t lose loved ones. Our loved ones were ripped from us. And they were slaughtered in that movie theater,” she said. “But the jury chose another way and we have to accept that.”
Robert Sullivan, grandfather of victim Veronica Moser Sullivan, found it hard to accept the jury’s decision.
“That’s not justice,” he said angrily. “He’s living, he’s breathing. Our loved ones are gone.”
Jury had rejected insanity defense
The shooting occurred during a midnight showing of a Batman movie, “The Dark Knight Rises,” when Holmes burst into the theater through a rear door and opened fire.
Holmes’ attorneys argued that their client is mentally ill and suffered a psychotic episode when he colored his hair orange-red, rigged his apartment with explosives, dressed in tactical gear and sprayed bullets into the theater under a cloak of darkness and tear gas.
In closing arguments Thursday, public defender Tamara Brady said the assault was a “tragedy” born of disease, not choice. The deaths cannot be answered by another death, and Holmes would be punished for the remainder of his days under a life sentence, she said.
Prosecutors, however, argued that Holmes should die for his crimes. 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, prosecutors said.
For Holmes, justice is his execution, Brauchler told the jury.
Holmes admitted to his crimes and had pleaded not guilty by reason of insanity.
But the jury rejected that defense in July, convicting him of a total of 165 counts, including the 24 charges of first-degree murder.
In the shooting, Holmes bought a ticket to see the Batman movie 12 days prior to the assault.
At the time, Holmes reportedly held a “human capital” credo that killing people would add value to his life. “You take away life, and your human capital is limitless,” Holmes said in a chat message to his then-girlfriend months before the massacre.
If people were injured or maimed in the shooting, they amounted to “collateral damage,” Holmes told a court-appointed psychiatrist after the shootings.
Like other patrons on July 19, 2012, Holmes walked into the theater No. 9 of Century Aurora 16 Multiplex Theater.
He then walked out a rear door, which he left propped open.
Just after midnight, about 18 minutes into the movie, he returned wearing a ballistic helmet, a gas mask, black gloves and protective gear for his legs, throat and groin.
A tear gas canister exploded in the theater, then gunfire rained from an AR-15 rifle, a 12-gauge shotgun and at least one .40-caliber handgun.
Holmes fled. But he was arrested in the parking lot outside the theater about seven minutes after the first 911 calls were made to police.