|James E. Holmes|
CENTENNIAL, Colo., — A jury sentenced James E. Holmes to life in prison with no chance of parole on Friday, rejecting the death penalty for the man who carried out a 2012 shooting rampage that killed 12 people in a Colorado movie theater.
As the courtroom waited for Judge Carlos Samour Jr. to review the verdict, only the sound of him turning pages could be heard. Minutes later, he read each sentence of life, a decision that was a surprise to many in the courtroom.
Since Mr. Holmes was convicted last month of more than 160 counts of murder and attempted murder, his lawyers and prosecutors have been putting questions of his fate before a jury of nine women and three men.
Prosecutors, emphasizing the human toll and indiscriminate cruelty of opening fire on a happy crowd of moviegoers, argued that he should join the three other men on Colorado’s death row. They argued that toll he exacted was so great, and the indiscriminate rampage so horrible, that death by lethal injection was the only just punishment.
But defense lawyers said it was not hatred or a desire for notoriety that propelled Mr. Holmes to plot and carry out the massacre, but a deepening form of schizophrenia that infected his mind with powerful delusions that killing people somehow increased his “human capital.”
To reach a death sentence, jurors had to agree unanimously. If even one person dissents, the sentence is life in prison.
Jurors deliberated for less than a day before reaching their conclusion. They had walked to the precipice of sentencing Mr. Holmes to death, agreeing after earlier sentencing deliberations that he was eligible to receive the death penalty.
But defense lawyers emphasized that jurors had no legal obligation to sentence him to death, and they urged jurors to listen to their own moral compasses no matter what other jurors wanted.
Source: The New York Times, Jack Healy, August 7, 2015
Victims' Families React to Holmes Verdict
|James E. Holmes in Arapahoe County Court in July 2012|
In verdicts read starting at 5 p.m. MT, jurors said they were unable to reach a unanimous decision to impose the death penalty on each of the murder charges James Holmes, now 27, faced, two for each of the 12 people he killed July 20, 2012, at a suburban Denver movie house. Seventy others were injured, and many continue to deal with physical limitations that are a result of the attack.
The same jury had previously convicted Holmes of murder but decided Friday that he would not be put to death. Under Colorado law, imposing the death penalty via lethal injection requires jurors to reach an unanimous verdict for execution. They spent portions of two days to make their decision.
"It's just not fair," Sandy Phillips said crying as she left the courtroom. Phillips' daughter died in the shooting, and Phillips wore her green shawl every day to the trial that began in April. "There are people who will be in wheelchairs for the rest of their lives."
As the sentence was read, Holmes’ mother, Arlene, who had asked the jury to spare her son’s life, leaned her head against her husband’s shoulder and began sobbing. Holmes, who is on anti-psychotic medication that dulls his responses, rocked his chair side to side as he awaited his fate and had no reaction to the decision.
In a hearing that will start Aug. 24, Judge Carlos A. Samour Jr. will formally sentence Holmes to life in prison without the possibility of parole.
After leaving the courtroom, another woman sobbed so loudly that it could be heard from another floor, echoing through the otherwise empty courthouse where prosecutors laid out Holmes' methodical attack on the theater where fans were watching a midnight premiere of the Batman movie The Dark Knight Rises.
Writing on Twitter, Jordan Ghawi said he opposed the death penalty from the start. Ghawi's sister, Jessica, was killed in the attack.
Yet, some family members of victims said they were pleased with the jury's decision.
"Imagine what $5 million (the cost of this trial) could do for mental health in the great state of Colorado," he wrote on Twitter.
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Source: USA Today, August 8, 2015
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