Friday 20 July 2018

Jury decides 'Batman' cinema killer eligible to face the death penalty

James Holmes in court in Centennial, Colo. Photo: Andy Cross/The Denver Post via AP
James Holmes in court in Centennial, Colo. Photo: Andy Cross/The Denver Post via AP

Nick Allen in Los Angeles

James Holmes, the neuroscience graduate student who killed 12 people and injured 70 in one of America's worst mass shootings, will be eligible to face a possible death sentence, a jury decided.

Holmes (27) attacked a cinema in Aurora, Colorado, during a midnight screening of Batman film 'The Dark Knight Rises' on July 20, 2012. He had pleaded not guilty by reason of insanity but last month was found guilty of 165 charges of murder, attempted murder and using explosives.

Under Colorado's complicated legal process, the jury was then asked to consider a "mitigation phase" in which they hear evidence about the whole of a defendant's life before deciding whether the death penalty should be an option.

After deliberating for less than three hours, the jury of nine women and three men reached a unanimous conclusion that it should be an option in Holmes's case.

They will now proceed to deliberating on whether to actually hand down a sentence of death.

During that next phase prosecutors will call more than a dozen survivors of the attack to give evidence.

If one juror had believed death should not be an option, then the trial would have ended and Holmes would have automatically received a sentence of life in prison without parole.

Defence lawyers had argued that Holmes was mentally ill, suffering from schizophrenia, and said that led him to carry out the shooting. Before the jury's decision Tamara Brady, for the defence, said: "Had he not been inflicted with the disease that attacked his brain, he never would have dyed his hair orange, he never would have purchased all of those guns and all of that ammunition, and this heartbreaking tragedy would never have occurred."

But the prosecution argued Holmes should not be able to use mental illness as a "shield". Prosecutor George Brauchler said: "Not having the same brain that we have does not protect you from the ramifications of those decisions. He made a decision to massacre and he did. Twelve dead from the community. Can anything outweigh that? No."

The jury also heard evidence from people who had known Holmes, including a teacher who called him very bright.

His mother Arlene broke down in tears as she described him as a "good kid". She told the court: "I still love my son. Because I understand he has a serious mental illness. He didn't ask for that. Schizophrenia chose him, he didn't choose it." (© Daily Telegraph London)

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