Jury reaches decision on Colorado theater shooter’s sentence

CENTENNIAL, Colo. (AP) – Jurors in the Colorado theater shooting case reached a decision Friday on whether James Holmes should be sentenced to life in prison or the death penalty.

They deliberated for about six and a half hours over two days. The sentence will be announced at 5 p.m.

The same jurors rejected Holmes’ insanity defense and convicted him of murdering 12 people and trying to kill 70 others three years ago inside a midnight Batman movie in suburban Denver.

The decision follows over three months of often emotional testimony from those who survived the attack – some in wheelchairs – and the children and parents left to figure out their lives without their loved ones.

They recalled sometimes funny stories about their family members, but many also described how they or their relatives have struggled with depression, PTSD and nightmares since the shooting.

Jurors also viewed graphic images of the wounded and the dead.

The defense argued the shooting was the result of a psychotic breakdown of a mentally ill young and that death is not an appropriate sentence for someone diagnosed with schizophrenia. A psychiatrist who testified that Holmes knew the difference between right and wrong, and therefore was sane under Colorado law, also said Holmes would not have carried out the attack if he had not been mentally ill.

Jurors also heard from Holmes’ parents, who drew a contrast between the man who entered the theater dressed in body armor and the boy they knew growing up, who was never violent and excelled at school. The defense showed jurors photographs of James Holmes hanging on in the backyard with children from the neighborhood and playing in the surf near his home in California.

It was the first time Robert and Arlene Holmes spoke publicly about their love and support for their son, other than an appeal to try to save his life in an op-ed published just before jury selection started.

A decision to sentence the former neuroscience graduate student to die by lethal injection would have to be unanimous. Jurors also could decide life in prison without the possibility of parole is the best sentence because of his mental illness. If they can’t all agree on a sentence, Holmes would be sentenced to life.

Survivors of the attack and victims’ family members disagree on which sentence is appropriate. Some believe Holmes’ execution would help ease their pain, while others worry about the decades of appeals that typically come with the death penalty.

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