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James Holmes Sentenced To Life For Colorado Theater Shooting


James Holmes, the gunman who killed 12 people in a Colorado theater in 2012, will spend the rest of his life in prison. Jurors reached that decision yesterday. They could not unanimously agree on the death penalty. The final verdict ended a trial that laid to bear the horrific details of one of the country's worst mass shootings. Colorado Public Radio's Ben Markus reports.

BEN MARKUS, BYLINE: Just over three years ago, James Holmes opened fire on a theater full of unsuspecting superhero fans looking forward to seeing the premiere of the latest Batman movie. The jury rejected his plea of insanity and found him guilty, but they had one last question to answer. Should he be put to death? Judge Carlos Samour summoned everyone to court when they had reached a decision.


CARLOS SAMOUR: Would the defendant please stand for the reading of the sentencing - the final sentencing verdict forms?

MARKUS: The courtroom was packed. There were injured survivors, relatives of the dead and first responders who rushed into the theater that night.


SAMOUR: (Reading)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.

MARKUS: Stunned silence turned to anguish in the gallery. Police officers and victims cried and shook their heads in disbelief. Holmes's mother, who was also standing, went weak in the knees, crying. Her son didn't show any emotion. Outside the courtroom, District Attorney George Brauchler stepped in front of the media. It had been his decision to seek the death penalty.


GEORGE BRAUCHLER: I would have liked a different outcome for the victims, and I've already apologized to them.

MARKUS: Holmes's public defenders said they offered a plea deal of life in prison without the possibility of parole a couple of years ago, and Brauchler was asked if it was worth it to spend millions of taxpayer dollars just to end up with that same outcome. He was unapologetic.


BRAUCHLER: This guy went there, in his heart, with the intention to be the number one mass murderer in the history of this country, and he had the means to do it.

MARKUS: Brauchler said he wants to talk to the jurors and find out what he may have done that caused them to waiver on death. All but one juror declined to speak with the media. She wouldn't give her name, but she said there was one staunch holdout on the jury. She said she was unclear why. Dave Hoover, whose nephew, A.J. Boik, was killed in the theater, was disappointed.


DAVE HOOVER: My verdict would have been death because he has no value left in this world. He gets to hug his mom and dad. He gets to correspond. We don't get that. We've lost that, but that's the system.

MARKUS: Victims' families were split on the death penalty. Lonnie Phillips, whose daughter, Jessica Ghawi, was shot to death, was against it. He wanted Brauchler to take the plea deal. Standing in front of a horde of media, he said he was nonetheless relieved that the story of the gunman is nearly over.


LONNIE PHILLIPS: We want him to go into oblivion. We want him not to be seen or heard from again. That would be the gift that you could give to us for what we've been through.

MARKUS: There will be a short sentencing hearing later this month for the attempted murders of 70 other people in the theater, a formality at this point. Then the convicted gunman will be sent to prison for the rest of his life. For NPR News, I'm Ben Markus in Denver. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

Ben Markus
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