No Death Penalty for Aurora Theater Killer

     DENVER (CN) – A jury deciding the fate of James Holmes, the gunman who killed 12 people in the 2012 mass shooting in a movie theater, sentenced him to life in prison without possibility of parole on Friday.     
     Holmes, who also injured 70 when he shot rounds of ammunition into a darkened Aurora theater on July 20, 2012, has been on trial for fifteen weeks, and was found guilty for 165 counts of murder, attempted murder, and the possession of explosives on July 17.
     While the jury as able to unanimously throw out Holmes’ insanity plea in the first phase of sentencing, they were not able to come to a unanimous decision on the death penalty – automatically triggering a life sentence without parole.
     The jury, who spent the early part of Friday watching graphic crime-scene video from inside the theater – featuring shots of bullets, popcorn, and blood – took 6 1/2 hours to deliberate on the sentence.
     “There was one firm holdout against the death penalty,” one of the female jurors told the press. “Two were on the fence.”
     The verdict took eleven minutes to read. As Judge Carlos Samour, Jr. read the first count, there were palpable gasps and sobs from the victims’ side of the courtroom. One man immediately shot out of his seat and left.
     Sandy Phillips, the mother of the slain Jessica Ghawi, shook her head as the verdict was read. Ashley Moser, sitting in a wheelchair necessary because one of Holmes’ bullets paralyzed her, also shook her head and cried.
     Moser’s daughter, Veronica Moser-Sullivan, was Holmes’ youngest victim. She was six the night she, her mother and a babysitter went to see the midnight premiere of “Batman: The Dark Knight Rises.
     Media outlets reported that outside the courtroom, Sandy Phillips looked at the passing defense team and said, “I wonder how it feels to save the life of a mass murderer? Good job.”
     “We didn’t lose loved ones,” Phillips later told the press. “Our loved ones were ripped from us. And they were slaughtered in that movie theater. But the jury chose another way and we have to accept that.”
     But Holmes’ parents, Robert and Arlene Holmes, held each other and cried as the sentencing was announced. Robert Holmes appeared to be holding Arlene Holmes up.
     Holmes, who has shown little emotion throughout the trial, made an uncharacteristic gesture when Samour finished reading the verdict. He reached across the defense table to shake public defender Tamara Brady’s hand, saying, “Thank you.”
     District Attorney George Brauchler, who led the prosecution, made the decision to pursue the death penalty against Holmes after the Aurora shooting and refused an initial plea for a life sentence. He spoke to the press after the verdict was read.
     “I don’t think there’s any doubt that [Holmes] got what he wanted,” Brauchler said, but added that he felt the jury had done “a hell of a job.”
     

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