Colorado theater shooter avoids death penalty, sentenced to life in prison

 James Holmes. © R.J. Sangosti
James Holmes, the gunman who killed 12 people and injured 70 others when he opened fire in a Colorado theater three years ago, has been sentenced to life in prison without the possibility of parole.

Consequently, the decision means jurors decided against the death penalty. A death sentence required the unanimous agreement of the jury.

"We the jury do not have a unanimous final sentencing verdict on this count and we the jury understand that, as a result, the court will impose a sentence of life imprisonment without the possibility of parole on this count," the judge read as he went through the various counts.

The verdict was reached after the jury viewed a video of the theater in Aurora, Colorado which was recorded soon after Holmes went on his violent shooting spree, Reuters reported. The video depicted a “body-strewn theater.”

Back in 2013, the 27-year-old Holmes entered a movie theater screening of Batman film “The Dark Knight Rises,” deployed tear gas and proceeded to shoot into the audience with several weapons. This past July, he was convicted of all 165 counts against him, including 24 first-degree murder charges and 116 counts of attempted first-degree murder.

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The jurors did "a hell of a job," said Arapahoe County District Attorney George Brauchler. However, he said he still believes should have been put to death.

"Though I'm disappointed with the outcome, I'm not disappointed with the process. ... I still think death is justice for what that guy did but the system said otherwise and I honor that," he said, according to the Denver Post.

Meanwhile, Aurora Police Chief Nicholas Metz said,"There will never be closure for these families, for these victims. They will carry the scars. They will carry the pain."

During closing arguments in the trial, Holmes’ defense attorney, Dan King, argued that his client’s mental issues were the sole reason for the attack.

“The evidence is clear that he could not control his thoughts, … he could not control his actions, and he could not control his perceptions,” King said during closing arguments.

“Only the mental illness caused this to happen and nothing else.”

Four psychiatrists agreed that Holmes suffered from Schizophrenia Spectrum Disorder, Yahoo News reported, but they were not unanimous in finding him legally insane while carrying out the attack. Both court-appointed doctors found him sane, while the two consulted by the defense concluded he was not.

Holmes was presented by the defense as a former graduate student who was overwhelmed by his degraded mental health. Holmes dropped out of a neuroscience program a few weeks before the theater attack.

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The prosecution argued that Holmes always knew what he was doing and intended to kill those he shot at.

“Look at the evidence, then hold this man accountable,” Arapahoe County District Attorney George Brauchler said. “Reject this claim that he didn’t know right from wrong when he murdered those people and tried to kill the others.”

Evidence was also presented showing Holmes communicating with his parents via email, discussing normal issues. At the same time these emails were being sent, Holmes was obtaining a stockpile of deadly weaponry.

“We know what insanity is … this ain’t it,” Brauchler added. “He knew what he was doing when he killed those people. He intended to kill them. That was his specific goal.”

More than 200 witnesses took the stand during the three-month trial.