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Theater Gunman's Life Spared, Sentenced To Life In Prison

CENTENNIAL, Colo. (CBS4)- The jury in the Aurora theater shooting trial could not reach a unanimous decision on the death penalty so he will spend the rest of his life in prison.

Gunman James Holmes showed no emotion as he stood before the judge when the verdict was read in court.

"We the jury do not have a unanimous final sentencing verdict on this count. And we the jury understand that as a result the court will impose a sentence of life imprisonment without the possibility of parole," said Judge Carlos Samour, Jr.

The official sentencing hearing has been scheduled for Aug. 24 and is expected to last three days.

James Holmes Trial sentencing
Aurora theater gunman James Holmes in court during the sentencing of his trial on Aug. 7. (credit: CBS)

After 60 days of testimony spread over 15 weeks, the jurors could not decide on the death penalty so instead he will spend the rest of his life behind bars without the possibility of parole.

CBS4's Stan Bush was in the courtroom as the verdict was read and he said Holmes smiled at his attorneys, shook their hands and said "Thank you" to them after the judge left the courtroom.

Jurors convicted Holmes on July 16 on 24 counts of first-degree murder, two counts for each person murdered in the July 20, 2012 attack inside an Aurora movie theater. That made Holmes eligible for the death penalty. He was also convicted of attempted first-degree murder, two counts for each of the 70 people he injured that night.

Century 16 Theater Theatre Aurora Movie Shooting James Holmes

Jurors have heard from 306 witnesses and have seen more than 2,000 pieces of evidence during the trial.

Judge Samour thanked the jurors for their service and their sacrifice during the trial, "You have all put your lives on hold to do this."

Gov. John Hickenlooper released this statement in regards to the verdict, "Our thoughts remain with the victims and families who have suffered unspeakable tragedy. No verdict can bring back what they have lost but we hope they begin to find peace and healing in the coming weeks."

The Holmes family released this statement through their attorney a few hours after the verdict was read, "The Holmes family is unable to make any comment at this time other than to say that they are deeply sorry this has happened and they are so sorry that the victims and families have suffered such tremendous loss."

The jury asked to review evidence on Friday morning, graphic video taken inside the theater right after the attack.

The defense objected to letting the panel of nine women and three men watch the 45-minute video again. They claim the gruesome images taken immediately after the massacre would be prejudicial.

PHOTO GALLERY: Aurora Theater Victims Remembered

Judge Samour allowed the viewing of the video but said jurors would only have 50 minutes to watch the tape. He also gave them a warning not to let the evidence prejudice their deliberations.

Less than three hours after Samour granted their request, jurors announced a verdict had been reached. The sentence of life in prison without the possibility of parole was read just after 5 p.m. on Friday.

During the trial the defense argued the shooting was the result of a psychotic break of a neuroscience graduate student and that Holmes was mentally ill. They argued that death is not an appropriate sentence for someone diagnosed with schizophrenia.

First Court Hearing Held For Alleged CO Movie Theater Shooter
File photo of James Holmes. (credit: RJ Sangosti-Pool/Getty Images)

Prosecutors maintained that Holmes knew exactly what he was doing and planned the attack for months, buying ammunition for months before the shooting and detailing his plan in a notebook that was presented as evidence during the trial.

holmes notebook
(credit: CBS)

Since July 23, jurors have been hearing what was very emotional testimony in the three sentencing phases of the trial. In the first phase, jurors decided that there were aggravating factors in the attack which made Holmes eligible for the death penalty.

In the second sentencing phase, jurors decided the mitigating factors did not outweigh the aggravating factors in the case against convicted gunman which meant the death penalty was still a possibility.

During the sentencing's second phase the defense argued mental illness caused the shooting.

George Brauchler James Holmes
District Attorney George Brauchler points at James Holmes, who sits with his defense team in court on April 27, 2015. (credit: CBS)

The third phase of sentencing began Monday and over the course of several days of emotional testimony 13 victims in the deadly shooting took the witness stand in the victim impact phase.

TIMELINE: Key Events In The Life Of James Holmes

On Thursday jurors heard final arguments from the prosecution and defense before they began their deliberations on whether Holmes should be sentenced to death or life in prison without the chance of parole.

Holmes attorneys never disputed that he was the one who committed the violent attack but that he was insane at the time and didn't deserve to die because he didn't know right from wrong.

In closing arguments on Thursday, District Attorney George Brauchler played a recording of a 911 call with gunshots and screams in the background as the victims' pictures disappeared one by one from a courtroom TV screen.

"For James Eagan Holmes, justice is death," he said. "Death."

Ashley Moser
Theater shooting victim Ashley Moser testifies about the loss of her 6-year-old daughter and unborn child during the victim impact statements (credit: CBS)

Defense attorney Tamara Brady said that the massacre was heartbreaking but that Holmes' schizophrenia was the sole cause.

TIMELINE: Aurora Theater Shooting 

"The death of a seriously mentally ill man is not justice no matter how tragic the case is," she said. "Please, no more death."


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