Jurors reached a verdict in the Colorado theater shooting trial Friday as they decided that James Holmes will be sentenced to life in prison without the possibility of parole rather than receive the death penalty. Holmes was convicted of murdering 12 people and injuring many more during a shooting at a movie theater in Aurora, Colorado, in 2012. His defense lawyers claimed Holmes has been diagnosed with schizophrenia and said he should not be convicted on the basis of insanity. The jurors rejected this claim after hearing testimony from victims and families. As the phases of the death penalty trial moved forward, the jurors entered their final deliberation on Friday, where they discussed Holmes' sentence for more than 6 hours. They could not unanimously settle on the death penalty, so Holmes automatically receives life in prison.
According to The New York Times, court-appointed psychiatrists deemed that Holmes was in fact mentally ill at the time of the massacre at a midnight showing of The Dark Knight, but that he knew what he was doing was wrong. While prosecutors pushed for the death penalty by stressing the severity of Holmes' actions, the defense relied on encouraging jurors to consider their own moral compasses when deliberating the sentence.
The life sentence surprised the public, who seemed to largely expect that Holmes would be handed the death penalty. But, as The Denver Post reports, it's been six years since the last time a Colorado jury reached a death sentence verdict.
Families of the shooting victims — Jonathan Blunk, AJ Boik, Jesse Childress, Gordon Cowden, Jessica Ghawi, John Larimer, Matthew McQuinn, Micayla Medek, Veronica Moser-Sullivan, Alex Sullivan, Alex Teves, and Rebecca Wingo — will be given an opportunity to speak at a hearing when the judge formally hands down the life sentence. Holmes, who has stayed silent throughout the entire trial, will be given the chance to make a statement as well.