No death penalty for Colorado theater shooter

Courts
by Mickey McLean
Posted 8/07/15, 07:59 pm

A jury in Centennial, Colo., said Friday it would not sentence James Holmes to death for his murderous rampage at a packed Aurora, Colo., movie theater three years ago. Instead, Holmes, 27, will receive life in prison with no possibility for parole for killing 12 people and injuring 70 others at a midnight showing of The Dark Knight Rises.

Prosecutors argued Holmes deserved the death penalty because of his methodically planned attack. But the defense countered that Holmes’ schizophrenia caused a psychotic breakdown, leading him to commit one of the country’s deadliest mass shootings ever.

The decision to not sentence Holmes to death came as a surprise after the nine women and three men on the jury earlier rejected Holmes’ insanity defense, finding him capable of understanding right from wrong at the time of the massacre. The jury had also quickly decided the heinousness of the crimes outweighed any possible mental illness. But after about six and a half hours of deliberations over two days, the jury was unable to reach a unanimous decision on a death sentence, which is required to carry out an execution in Colorado.

As it the verdict was read, Holmes’ mother Arlene, who had pleaded for jurors to spare her son’s life, leaned against her husband and sobbed. In the back of the courtroom, Aurora police officers who responded to the attacks also began crying.

Sandy Phillips, whose daughter Jessica Ghawi was killed by Holmes, shook her head no and then held it in her hands.

Ashley Moser, whose 6-year-old daughter died in the attack and who was herself paralyzed by Holmes’ bullets, also shook her head and then slowly leaned it against the wheelchair of another paralyzed victim, Caleb Medley.

Families of victims began to leave the courtroom as Judge Carlos Samour Jr. continued reading the verdict. Their anguished cries were audible through the closed courtroom doors.

As in previous court proceedings, Holmes showed no reaction.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

Mickey McLean

Mickey is executive editor of WORLD Digital.

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