Jurors in the case of James Holmes, convicted last month in the 2012 cinema shooting in Colorado, agreed by unanimous vote on Monday to retain the death penalty as an option for his punishment.
After debating for less than three hours, the panel of nine women and three men agreed that the aggravating factors in the case outweighed any mitigating ones, such as his mental state at the time of the rampage, and decided to keep death by execution on the table as the trial enters its final stage.
The decisions means jurors will now move into the third and final sentencing phase of the trial. Had even one broken ranks yesterday then the worst that Holmes would have faced would have be life in prison without the possibility of parole. He was convicted last month of killing twelve during a screening of the Batman film, ‘The Dark Knight Rises’ and wounding 70.
In convicting Holmes of the mass shooting, jurors had already rejected his original insanity plea and found him guilty on all 165 counts of murder, attempted murder and explosives charges. His rampage at an Aurora multiplex near Denver stands as one of the deadliest in America in recent times, alongside the killing of 20 schoolchildren and 6 school staff in Newtown, Connecticut, a few months later.
In an emotionally charged court session at the end of last week, jurors heard from the mother and sister of Holmes who both pleaded for him to be spared the death penalty, declaring their enduring love for him and insisting that he was mentally disturbed when he opened fire on the cinema audience.
But in their closing arguments at the end of the main body of the trial, prosecutors asserted that Holmes had made a deliberate decision to commit the massacre, had concealed his plans and that it was the responsibility of the jury to make sure he didn’t use mental illness as a “shield” to escape justice.
As the decision was read out, the mother of Holmes, Arlene Holmes, bowed her head in the public gallery and wept. In the third sentencing phase, the jury will hear testimony from friends and relatives of victims.