Death penalty still option for theater shooter; Phase 3 of sentencing begins Tuesday

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CENTENNIAL, Colo. -- The jury in the Aurora theater shooting trial unanimously ruled Monday that mitigating factors did not outweigh aggravation, keeping the death penalty on the table for the convicted shooter.

The jury deliberated less than three hours before reaching its verdict in the second of three penalty phases of the trial for James Holmes, who was convicted of 165 counts -- including 24 counts of first-degree murder -- on July 16 for the July, 20, 2012, shooting inside the Aurora Century 16 theaters at the premiere of the Batman film "The Dark Knight Rises."

In Phase 1 of the penalty hearing on July 23, the jury found the gunman's acts in the shooting that killed 12 people and injured 70 others carried aggravating factors, moving the case to Phase 2.

Deliberations in the second penalty phase began at 3:30 p.m. July 27 and lasted about an hour. They resumed at 8:30 a.m. Monday and the jury sent a note to Arapahoe County District Court Judge Carlos A. Samour Jr. at 9:55 a.m. saying they had reached a verdict.

RELATED: Complete theater shooting trial coverage

In the second penalty phase, the jury heard from several of the gunman’s family and friends, including his parents and sister, who insisted the shooter is severely mentally ill and was never violent until the shooting.

All 12 jurors found the mitigating circumstances did not outweigh the four aggravation circumstances they found to be present in Phase 1. Had they done so, the shooter would have been sentenced to life in prison without the possibility of parole.

As the verdict was read, a packed courtroom section of victims and their family members let out a rush of emotion, with some crying, some sobbing, some clutching each other and some nodding in approval.

Holmes' parents were also in the courtroom. As the verdict was read, his mother, Arlene, cried quietly as his father, Bob, put his arm around her and rubbed her shoulder.

The gunman stood with his hands in his pockets and did not react as the verdict was read.

The trial will commence to Phase 3, in which the jury will decide if the shooter will receive the death penalty. The Arapahoe County District Attorney’s Office will be allowed to present victim impact statements as evidence and told the judge Monday they expect their case to last two to three days.

Phase 3 will begin at 10 a.m. Tuesday.