Dark Knight Rises theatre shooting: US gunman gets life sentence without parole

9 Aug 2015 | Author: | No comments yet »

Colorado theatre shooter James Holmes gets life in prison without parole.

CENTENNIAL — The man who committed one of the worst mass murders in Colorado history will not suffer the state’s strictest punishment because of persuasive efforts his attorneys began before a jury was even picked, legal experts said Saturday.In this image from Colorado Judicial Department video, defendant James Holmes, top left in tan shirt, watches as the jury exits the courtroom after delivering their sentencing verdict on Friday. (Colorado Judicial Department via AP ) Twelve jurors failed to agree on a death sentence for Colorado theatre shooter James Holmes on Friday, prompting shocked sobs from victims, police officers and his own mother. James Holmes’ sentence to life in prison without the possibility of parole on Friday shocked a courtroom full of victims who sat through the grueling three-month-long Aurora theater shooting trial and hoped Holmes would receive the death penalty. There, Holmes’ attorneys began sowing seeds with jurors to convince them that life could be the appropriate punishment for the calculated killing of 12 people.

The same jury earlier rejected Holmes’ insanity defense, finding him capable of understanding right from wrong when he carried out the 2012 assault that injured 70. It went classically Colorado Method.” On the first day of individual questioning during jury selection, six months ago, defense attorney Rebekka Higgs stood before a prospective juror known only as Juror No. 17 and asked this question: “Do you understand that the law in Colorado never requires a death sentence?” In talking with jurors, defense attorneys repeatedly said the sentencing decision is an individual one that doesn’t need to be explained to fellow jurors. As the sentence was read, Holmes’s mother, Arlene, who had asked the jury to spare her son’s life, leaned her head against her husband’s shoulder and began sobbing.

Psychiatrists who testified during the trial were split on whether Holmes was legally insane under Colorado law. (Andy Cross/The Denver Post/Associated Press) Sandy Phillips, whose daughter Jessica Ghawi was killed by Holmes, shook her head no and then held it in her hands. In the defense’s final closing arguments, attorney Tamara Brady pleaded with jurors that it would be immoral to sentence a person so mentally ill to death. While Holmes’ crime — he also wounded 70 people in the attack on the Century Aurora 16 movie theater three years ago — was especially heinous, his mental illness made the punishment decision difficult for some jurors, said Denver attorney Cliff Stricklin. Prosecutors argued Holmes deserved to die because he methodically planned the attack at a midnight screening of a Batman movie, even blasting techno music through earphones so he wouldn’t hear his victims scream. The trial hinged instead on the question of whether a mentally ill person should be held legally and morally culpable for an act of unspeakable violence.

It took jurors only about 12 hours of deliberations to decide the first part — they rejected his insanity defence and found him guilty of 165 felony counts. His parents testified he seemed a normal, affectionate child who withdrew socially in adolescence and became fascinated with science but did not seem abnormal. Holmes flunked out of his prestigious doctoral program at the University of Colorado and broke up with a fellow graduate student, the only girlfriend he’d ever had.

He began to buy guns and thousands of rounds of ammunition and scouted out The Century 16 theatre complex to learn which auditorium would offer the highest number of victims. He kept his mounting homicidal thoughts from a university psychiatrist, instead describing them in notebook he mailed to her hours before the shooting. Shortly after midnight on July 20, 2012, he slipped into the premiere of The Dark Knight Rises, stood before the crowd of more than 400, threw gas canisters and opened fire with a shotgun, assault rifle and semi-automatic pistol.

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