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Jury rejects death for Holmes

Theater killer will spend his life in prison without parole.

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CENTENNIAL, Colo. —James Holmes will spend the rest of his life in prison without the possibility of parole.

The 12-member jury was unable to reach the unanimous decision required for the death penalty. One of the jurors, who reportedly cited concerns about mental illness, was unable to sentence Holmes to death by lethal injection. The defendant faced the death penalty for his July 20, 2012 attack on the Century 16 movie theater in Aurora, Colorado, which killed 12.

The jury reached its verdict after just under seven hours of deliberations. Upon hearing the announcement that her son’s life would be spared, Arlene Holmes collapsed in tears.  For the first time, they apologized for their son’s crime in a mass email sent at 8:11 pm – three hours after the decision was read. Their attorney spokeswoman Lisa Damiani wrote “The Holmes family is unable to make any comment at this time other than to say that they are deeply sorry this has happened and they are so sorry that the victims and families have suffered such tremendous loss.’

The victims’ families were crying, too, but for another reason. “I wonder how it feels to save the life of a mass murderer,” said Sandy Phillips in the courtroom hallway as defense attorneys walked by.  Phillips’ daughter, Jessica Ghawi, was killed in the shooting.

Later, outside the courthouse, the grandparents of the youngest victim, Veronica Moser-Sullivan, told the dozens of reporters assembled, “We think he’ll die in prison.” Robert Sullivan questioned whether the juror holdout was a plant all along.

All but one of the jurors slipped out the back door and asked not to be contacted by the media. But number 17, faced the cameras in the parking lot where satellite trucks were beaming the breaking news of the three-and-a-half-month trial.  “We were all in agreement for the death penalty but one, and there were two who were undecided. The one wouldn’t budge.”

The panel tried to convince the lone holdout of the heinous nature of the crime by calling for the crime scene video to be shown to her, but she held her ground. Juror 17 wouldn’t reveal the juror’s name, but said the reason for the her stance had to do with the gunman’s mental illness. “I am sorry for the families. I can’t fathom their grief. We tried.”

Holmes will now be sent to prison for life without parole.  It has not been decided whether he will end up in Colorado or out of state.  He  may be sent to a special prison in Centennial where inmates who are potential targets of other prisoners will be safe.

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Explanatory Multimedia Reporting from CU Boulder Journalism Students
Jury rejects death for Holmes