Colorado Theater Shooting Verdict: James Holmes Spared Death Penalty
There are mixed reactions today as the verdict arrives in the case against James Holmes, who attacked a movie theater showing a midnight screening of The Dark Knight Rises three years ago, in 2012. The jury failed to recommend the Death Penalty for the movie theater shooter, instead giving him a life sentence without the possibility of parole. The convicted murderer shot and killed 12 moviegoers. He wounded 70 others in Aurora, Colorado.
The jury for James Holmes consisted of nine woman and three men. Last month, they convicted him on all 165 charges that he was facing. These included 24 counts of first-degree murder. Today marked the last day in the penalty phase, which saw jurors debating on whether or not the killer deserved the death penalty or life in prison without parole. The verdict was read today at 4:10 pm local time by Arapahoe County District Judge Carlos Samour.
This is expected to officially close the book on what is called one of the worst mass-shootings in American history. The incident happened during a packed midnight screening for the third and final chapter in director Christopher Nolan's Dark Knight trilogy. Police report that James Holmes propped open the exit door of the theater at the Century 16 multiplex and then went to his car. There, he changed clothes and loaded himself up with weapons and ammunition. He returned to the theater, throwing canisters of tear gas on the floor. As the room began to fill with smoke, he opened fire, using multiple guns. His shooting spree only came to an end when one of the guns jammed. James Holmes was arrested only mere minutes after the attack ended.
The 12 people killed in the rampage included Micayla Medek (23 years old, cousin to Deadline Film Editor Anita Busch), Alex Teves (24), John Larimer (27), A.J. Boik (18), Jonathan Blunk (26), Matt McQuinn (27), Jessica Ghawi (24), Alex Sullivan (27), Jesse Childress (29), Gordon Cowden (51), Rebecca Ann Wingo (32) and 6-year-old Veronica-Moser Sullivan. The jury was not unanimous in the death penalty decision, which rendered an automatic life sentence. The decision came after the panel's request was granted to re-watch a 45-minute crime scene video from the theater that had already been played during the trial.
Many of the wounded surveyors testified during the trial, telling horrifying stories about how they tried to hide from the gunman's hail of bullets. Others told of how they had to stumble over the bodies of loved ones in a frenzy to exit the tear gas filled theater, making it hard to flee. Helping to secure that James Holmes did not get the death penalty was Defense lawyer Tamara Brady, who asked jurors if they were ready to sign a death warrant for a mentally ill individual, calling it a decision they would have to live with the rest of their lives. This came after the jury had already rejected the defendants plea of insanity.
James Holmes remained emotionless through the trial, only turning occasionally to look when a photograph of himself appeared on the court television. The defense argued that he suffers from schizophrenia and that his 'aloof or detached' demeanor steams from the psychosis drugs used to treat his illness. What are your thoughts on the verdict? Fair or not fair?