Amer­i­can cin­ema shooter es­capes death penalty

The China Post - - INTERNATIONAL - BY JEANIE STOKES

The Amer­i­can gun­man who stormed a Bat­man movie pre­miere and killed 12 cin­ema­go­ers es­caped the death penalty Fri­day but will spend the rest of his life be­hind bars.

A jury in the south­west­ern state of Colorado failed to unan­i­mously agree on ex­e­cu­tion for 27-year-old for­mer grad­u­ate stu­dent James Holmes, oblig­ing the judge to im­pose a sen­tence of life with­out pa­role.

Last month, the killer had been con­victed on 12 counts of mur­der in the first de­gree and scores more charges in­clud­ing mur­der, at­tempted mur­der and ex­plo­sives pos­ses­sion.

But de­fense coun­sel ar­gued he has a men­tal ill­ness and urged jurors to show clemency, an ap­peal ap­par­ently heeded by at least one of the panel of nine women and three men.

On each of the 12 mur­der counts that could have mer­ited the death penalty, the jury said in a state­ment read to the court: “We do not have a unan­i­mous fi­nal sen­tenc­ing ver­dict on this count.”

Dis­trict Judge Car­los Samour thanked jurors for their ser­vice and set Aug. 24 to 26 as the dates for Holmes’s for­mal sen­tenc­ing.

Holmes at­tacked the packed pre­miere of “The Dark Knight Rises” at the Cen­tury 16 theater in Aurora on July 20, 2012, spray­ing bul­lets into the dark au­di­to­rium.

Clad in body ar­mor and with pe­cu­liar dyed-or­ange hair, he fired hun­dreds of rounds be­fore po­lice halted a spree that left 12 peo­ple dead, in­clud­ing a six-year-old child.

Three years later, in July of this year, he was con­victed on 165 charges, the jury re­ject­ing the de­fense’s ar­gu­ment that he was not guilty be­cause of his men­tal ill­ness.

Robert Sul­li­van, grand­fa­ther of the youngest vic­tim, Veron­ica Moser-Sul­li­van, crit­i­cized the jury.

“They didn’t buy his san­ity ... and then they bailed at the end. No, I’m sorry,” Sul­li­van said. “It’s not jus­tice. Our loved ones are still gone.”

The pros­e­cu­tion had ar­gued that Holmes should be ex­e­cuted through lethal in­jec­tion.

“He picked the time, man­ner and method of their deaths. Does he de­serve a life sen­tence for that?” Dis­trict At­tor­ney Ge­orge Brauch­ler said in his clos­ing ar­gu­ments Thurs­day.

“This is about jus­tice.”

‘Eas­ier to kill a mon­ster’

But

As­sis­tant

Public De­fender Ta­mar Brady dis­agreed, ar­gu­ing be­fore the jurors be­gan their de­lib­er­a­tions that “jus­tice with­out mercy is raw vengeance.”

She also ob­jected to Brauch­ler’s char­ac­ter­i­za­tion of the de­fen­dant as “evil.”

“It is eas­ier to ask you to kill a mon­ster than to ask you to kill some­one who is men­tally ill,” Brady said. “This tragedy was born of dis­ease.”

Twice pre­vi­ously in the 15-week trial, jurors had re­jected the men­tal ill­ness de­fense.

First they found Holmes guilty rather than not-guilty by rea­son of in­san­ity. Then they found that men­tal ill­ness was not a mit­i­gat­ing fac­tor in the shoot­ings.

In the clos­ing hours of de­lib­er­a­tions the jury re­viewed a 45-minute, silent video of the grue­some crime scene — a theater au­dito- rium lit­tered with bul­lets, bod­ies, pop­corn, blood and gore.

But fi­nally they were un­able to agree a sen­tence.

Holmes, who was wear­ing khaki pants and a blue shirt in court, looked calm and had his hands in his pock­ets. He showed no re­ac­tion to the ver­dicts on Fri­day.

Af­ter a guilty ver­dict in Colorado death penalty cases, jurors are asked to de­lib­er­ate three times as to whether the ap­pro­pri­ate pun­ish­ment is death or life in prison with­out the pos­si­bil­ity of pa­role.

Dur­ing the guilt or in­no­cence part of the trial, jurors heard from sev­eral of the 70 sur­vivors who were in­jured in the shoot­ings.

Holmes was also found guilty on 140 counts of at­tempted mur­der and will be sen­tenced on those charges at a later date.

AP

Lon­nie, sec­ond from right, and Sandy Phillips, right, whose daugh­ter Jes­sica Ghawi was killed in the 2012 Aurora movie theater at­tack, hold each other as they lis­ten to Dis­trict At­tor­ney Ge­orge Brauch­ler, left, speak with mem­bers of the media af­ter a jury failed to agree on whether theater shooter James Holmes should get the death penalty in Cen­ten­nial, Colorado, Fri­day, Aug. 7.

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