An American man, James Holmes, who killed moviegoers in Colorado, has been sentenced to life without parole on Friday. The jury rejected death penalty for the 27-year-old who entered a midnight screening of a Batman film wielding a semi-automatic rifle, shotgun and pistol and killed a dozen people. Reuters reported the verdict was a surprise to many legal experts and those in the packed courtroom. The jurors said they were unable to reach a unanimous decision condemning Holmes to execution. They found him guilty last month on all counts for his July 20, 2012 massacre. Seventy people were also wounded.
Holmes showed no reaction. The former neuroscience graduate student stared straight ahead with his hands in his pockets as the judge announced the decision.
The verdict brings to an end an often-delayed, lengthy, and high-profile trial just a little more than three years after his rampage in a suburban Denver multiplex put a spotlight on gun control, mental illness and security in public spaces.
Sandy Phillips, whose daughter Jessica Ghawi was murdered by Holmes, commiserated outside the courtroom after the verdict with a wheelchair-bound survivor, Caleb Medley.
“Justice is not served. Sorry, Caleb,” she told him. As two members of Holmes’ court-appointed defense team walked past, Phillips said: “I wonder how it feels to save the life of a mass murderer? Good job.”
Nine jurors were in favor of the death penalty, a member of the panel said later. One was against execution, and the other two were on the fence, she said, without giving her name.
“I think primarily it was the mental illness,” Juror 17 told reporters, referring to the reasoning given by the hold-out.
Because the jurors could not agree, Holmes serves a mandatory life sentence with no possibility of parole. They would have had to be unanimous for a death penalty to be imposed. The defense had said Holmes suffers from schizophrenia and was not in control of his actions.
In his closing argument to the jury, District Attorney George Brauchler had argued that the gunman deserved to die for the “horror and evil” he wrought inside the screening of “The Dark Knight Rises” at the Century 16 multiplex in Aurora.
Dozens of wounded survivors testified during the trial about how they attempted to hide from his hail of bullets, some of them steel-penetrating rounds, or stumbled over the bodies of loved ones as they tried to flee.
Prosecutors said Holmes aimed to slaughter all 400 theater goers. But he failed to kill more, they said, in part because a drum magazine he bought to boost his firepower jammed.
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