CENTENNIAL, Colo. — It took almost three years for the case to reach trial. That trial played out over the course of three months. The jury needed just 6.5 hours to render a verdict.
The verdict: James Holmes has been sentenced to life imprisonment without the possibility of parole, after the jury failed to reach a unanimous decision.
The jury could have returned from the deliberation room Friday with three possible decisions: a unanimous vote for the death penalty, a unanimous vote for life imprisonment without the possibility of parole or a failure to reach a unanimous verdict – in which case the court will be required by law to render a sentence of life imprisonment without the possibility of parole.
A formal sentencing hearing will be held on Aug. 24-26, at which point in time initial decisions about where Holmes will serve his sentence will be discussed.
In a case that saw every bullet hole in the Century 16 movie theater examined, that heard psychiatrists detail hundreds of pages of mental health evaluations, the nine women and three men were uncannily quick, never needing more than a full business day to render their four decisions in the case.
First, they rejected Holmes’ insanity plea, finding him guilty of 165 charges stemming from the 12 he murdered and 70 others he injured a midnight premiere of the “Dark Knight Rises” on July 20, 2012.
The jury then found four aggravating factors of the murder presented by the Arapahoe County District Attorney in the first phase of the sentencing hearing. Despite hearing from all of Holmes family members and more evidence of mental illness and schizophrenia put forth by the defense in phase two, the jury did not find that mitigating circumstances of the murder outweighed the aggravating factors.
And in the third and final stage of the sentencing hearing, it seems at least one juror was swayed the suddenly-succinct defense team.
In her final closing argument, defense attorney Tamara Brady argued “but for mental illness, this tragedy would not have happened,” and that “justice without mercy is raw vengeance.”
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Needing a unanimous vote for death, prosecutor George Brauchler was also to the point.
“For James Holmes,” he said, finishing his closing argument in less than half of his allotted time, “justice is death.”
As Brady gave her closing argument, nearly half of the victims’ side of the courtroom filed out one-by-one, a powerful display that drew the attention of most in the courtroom. The jury, however, remained focused on the task at hand — a task that finally came to an end on Friday.
FOX31 Denver will have continuing coverage of the sentencing verdict and the aftermath on our Theater Trial page.
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