Colorado Gunman Won’t Face the Death Penalty


A jury in the state of Colorado has decided to spare gunman James Holmes the death penalty for the killing of twelve people at a cinema in 2012.  He will instead serve life in jail without the possibility of parole.

Holmes’ defence team had argued that the former neuroscience graduate student, who is now 27, had been insane at the time of the shootings.  But the jury agreed with prosecutors that Holmes, while being mentally ill, was still responsible for his actions yet were unable to reach a unanimous decision on the death penalty.


The disagreement in the jury means that he will receive an automatic life sentence without parole.  One of the jurors later said to NBC News that two members of the panel were ‘on the fence’ about the death penalty and the other was firmly opposed to it due to the mental illness issues involved.  Their stance meant that deliberations had to end.

The decision was made by a panel of nine women and three men and was revealed to the courtroom in the city of Centennial on Friday by Judge Carlos Samour.  Hearing the verdict, Holmes’ mother Arlene began to sob, leaning against her husband’s shoulder, according to courtroom reporting.

Ashley Moser, who was paralysed in the attack and whose six-year daughter was killed, was seen to shake her head.  District Attorney George Brauchler said that he thought that death was justice for Holmes’ crimes but that the system had said otherwise and he would honour and respect that decision.

The sentence will be imposed formally at a later hearing.

Awkward student

During the three-month trial, Holmes declined to testify on his own behalf or to make a statement of remorse.

Those who remembered him from his time as a student recall a quiet young man.  He was studying for a PhD in neuroscience at the University of Colorado in Denver but had been on the verge of leaving.

One research assistant at a lab that he frequented recalled him as a ‘socially awkward’ person but not to the degree that would ‘warrant suspicion of mass murders or an atrocity of that magnitude’.  The FBI said that Holmes had no significant criminal record save a speeding ticket from 2011 and no links to terrorism.

Prosecutors said that he had been listening to loud techno music on headphones while committing the assault to block out the screams of those he was firing on.


He was convicted on 165 counts including murder, attempted murder and explosives charges over the attack in Aurora, Colorado.  He entered the midnight screen of the Batman film The Dark Knight armed with an assault rifle, a shotgun and a pistol.  He also threw smoke canisters then shot at people trying to flee the smoke.

Prosecutors said that the attack was clearly premeditated as he had amassed weapons for months, had booby-trapped his apartment in case anyone tried to enter and planned the assault.  His parents, Robert an Arlene, said that their son was not a monster but suffered from severe mental illness.


Related posts: