Colorado theater shooter spared death penalty

James Holmes, the infamous Aurora movie theater shooter, was sentenced to life in prison without the possibility of parole by a 12-person jury on Friday. Deliberations took less than a day, but the jurors couldn’t come to an unanimous conclusion on the question of whether Holmes should receive the death penalty.

Nine of the 12 voted in favor of executing the now 27 year-old. Last month, Holmes was convicted of 24 counts of first degree murder for using three weapons to kill 12 and injure 70 others at the midnight premiere of “The Dark Knight Rises” on July 20, 2012.

Holmes had plead not guilty to the charges by reason of insanity.

During trial, prosecutors accused him of trying to murder all 400 people that were in the theater, as he wore militarized gear during the shooting which included a ballistic helmet, gas mask, and body armor.

Prosecutors also said his drum magazine jammed during the shooting, or he would have been able to kill more than 12 people.

Two psychiatrists who testified at trial acknowledged that the shooter was “mentally ill”, but not legally insane.

One of the psychiatrists who interviewed Holmes extensively, diagnosed him with schizoaffective disorder – a combination of schizophrenia and a mood disorder (either bipolar disorder or depression).

The other psychiatrist, who also interviewed Holmes for over 20 hours, diagnosed him with schizotypal personality disorder – defined by the American Psychiatric Association as a “pervasive pattern of social and interpersonal deficits marked by acute discomfort with, and reduced capacity for, close relationships as well as by cognitive or perceptual distortions and eccentricities of behavior”.

All in all, the trial lasted 60 days (beginning in late April), and included 306 witnesses.

“I still think death is justice for what that guy did”, said Arapahoe Co. District Attorney George Brauchler, “but the system said otherwise and I honor that.”

According to ‘Juror 17’, one panel member voted against the death penalty because of the “mental illness” factor.

Holmes, who declined to testify as a witness during trial, graduated from the University of California-Riverside with honors in 2010.

In 2011, Holmes enrolled in the University of Colorado’s neuroscience Ph.D program, but dropped out just weeks prior to the shooting.


[Reuters] [CNN]