Jury in theater shooting declines to rule out death penalty
CENTENNIAL, Colorado (AP) — Jurors in the Colorado theater shooting trial declined to rule out the death penalty Monday as they move toward sentencing James Holmes, finding his defense failed to persuade them to show him mercy.
Next is a last plea from both sides, including what is expected to be emotional testimony from victims.
Then the jury will make its final decision on whether the 27-year-old should die by lethal injection or spend the rest of his life in prison.
The same jury last month convicted Holmes of killing 12 people and injuring 70 in the July 2012 attack at a suburban Denver movie theater. Jurors rejected the defense claim that mental illness had so affected his mind that he could not tell right from wrong.
In the first step of Colorado’s complicated death sentencing process, jurors said the crime was so heinous that the death penalty could be appropriate.
In the second step, defense lawyers pleaded with jurors to show mercy. They called former teachers, family friends, and Holmes’ parents and his sister, who told jurors Holmes had been a happy, friendly child but kept to himself in his later years.
Jurors deliberated for less than three hours before reaching their latest decision.
Now both sides can call witnesses and present evidence before the jury deliberates one last time to decide whether Holmes lives or dies.
Holmes was a promising student in a neuroscience Ph.D. program when he broke up with his first and only girlfriend and dropped out of school.
In a notebook introduced as evidence in his trial, Holmes laid out his plans of attack, diagnosed himself with a litany of mental problems and wrote that he hid the depths of his problems — and his homicidal plans — from everyone.
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