Watch CBS News

Jurors give Colo. theater shooter James Holmes life in prison

James Holmes was sentenced to life in prison for killing 12 people and wounding 70 others at a movie theater in Aurora, Colorado in 2012
James Holmes sentenced to life in prison 01:47

CENTENNIAL, Colo. -- After a 15 week trial and in the third and final phase of sentencing, a jury of nine women and three men sentenced Colorado theater shooter James Holmes to life in prison without parole, rejecting the death penalty.

Holmes was convicted last month of murdering 12 people and trying to murder 70 others inside a movie theater in suburban Denver three years ago. Jurors began deliberating Thursday afternoon in the third and final phase of sentencing. The decision was delivered Friday evening.

Jurors reached their decision after they saw 2,695 pieces of evidence and heard from 306 witnesses over a three month long trial period. Relatives of those killed in the massacre were the last to take the stand, offering heartbreaking stories of loss.

Reporters in the courtroom tweeted about the reactions from family members of victims and Holmes' parents. When the verdict was read one man stormed out, others wept. Holmes' mother also cried as his father had his arm around her.

Jordan Ghawi, the brother of victim Jessica Ghawi, reacted on Twitter. He expressed that he was satisfied with the verdict, but angry that the case went to trial in the first place.

CBS Denver reports that Holmes smiled at his lawyers and thanked them after the verdict was read.

In the hours before the sentencing jurors had asked to review a graphic crime scene video before deciding whether to give Holmes the death penalty. Some analysts interpreted that to mean the jurors were hardening their hearts to give the death penalty.

A juror told reporters outside court that there was a single juror who refused to give Holmes the death penalty and two others who were wavering.

The juror, who did not give her name, said after the life sentence was handed down Friday that "It's a tragedy. It's a devastating result no matter what. I am deeply, deeply sorry -- that isn't even the word."

In closing arguments, 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."

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

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

James Holmes' parents both had taken the stand to try to persuade the jury to save his life. Holmes' sister also had taken the stand.

Holmes' victims didn't agree on what sentence was appropriate for the former neuroscience graduate student. Nor was there a consensus about whether it would ease their pain and loss.

James Holmes' family pleads for his life 02:04

Robert Sullivan had previously said that death would be the only just punishment for the man who killed his 6-year-old granddaughter, Veronica.

But Lonnie Phillips, Ghawi's father, had previously said he worried about the decades of appeals that typically come with a death sentence.

"If I had my way, he would go to prison the rest of his life and not have to go through the appeals process where we have to look at his face and hear his name again," Phillips said. "We want him behind us."

After the verdict, Holmes' family released a statement through its attorney, Lisa J. Damiani. The statement said the family was unable to comment other than to say they are deeply sorry that victims and survivors have suffered such a tremendous loss.

In Colorado, the death penalty is conducted by lethal injection. The last time it was used was in 1994 for Gary Davis. There are three other people currently on death row, and according to the Colorado Department of Corrections, the most recent was Robert Ray. He was sentenced to death in 2009.

Since the death penalty was re-instated in 1975, Colorado has only executed Davis.

View CBS News In
CBS News App Open
Chrome Safari Continue
Be the first to know
Get browser notifications for breaking news, live events, and exclusive reporting.