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'Batman' cinema shooter James Holmes spared death penalty

The jury spent two days deliberating after three months of evidence.

Colorado Shooting A 2012 file photo of James Holmes. Source: Associated Press

A COURT WILL sentence James Holmes to life in prison without the possibility of parole, for the murder of 12 people during a 2012 screening of The Dark Knight Rises in Aurora, Colorado.

The jury was unable to reach a unanimous decision tonight on whether to sentence him to death, which under Colorado law, means the court will impose the life sentence by default.

It will be formally delivered after a three-day sentencing hearing, which begins on 24 August.

The jury deliberated for about six and a half hours over two days. The sentence was announced after 5pm local time (midnight in Ireland).

The same jurors last month rejected the 27-year-old’s insanity defence and convicted him of murdering 12 people and trying to kill 70 others on 20 July, 2012.

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.

holmessentencing Source: 9News

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

The defence argued the shooting was the result of a psychotic breakdown of a mentally ill young man and that death was 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 cinema dressed in body armour and the boy they knew growing up, who was never violent and excelled at school.

Colorado Shooting Verdict Reaction Caleb Medley, who was shot in the face in the cinema attack, after hearing the guilty verdict in July. Source: Associated Press

The defence showed jurors photographs of James Holmes hanging out in the backyard with children from the neighbourhood 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.

By Colorado law, the decision to sentence the former neuroscience graduate student to die by lethal injection would have had to be unanimous, which it was not.

Colorado Shooting Victim Vignettes Source: Associated Press

Survivors of the attack and victims’ family members had disagreed on which sentence was appropriate.

Some believed Holmes’ execution would have helped ease their pain, while others worried about the decades of appeals that typically come with the death penalty.

The names of the people Holmes killed are:

Alex Teves, AJ Boik, Alex Sullivan, Gordon Cowden, Jesse Childress, Jessica Ghawi, John Larimer, Jonathan Blunk, Veronica Moser-Sullivan, Rebecca Wingo, Micayla Medek, and Matt McQuinn.

Contains reporting by the Associated Press.

Read: ‘Batman’ cinema shooter James Holmes found guilty, despite insanity plea>

Read: “Airport or movie theatre” – the chilling diary of the ‘Batman’ cinema killer>

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Dan MacGuill

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