Colorado shooting: James Holmes handed 12 life sentences and maximum 3,318 years in prison without parole over movie theatre massacre

James Holmes meticulously planned the attack

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A gunman who murdered 12 people and injured 70 others when he carried out a carefully planned shooting at a movie theatre in Colorado has been handed life sentences for each fatality and the maximum 3,318 years in prison. 

James Holmes, 27, was convicted of first-degree murder and 140 counts of attempted first degree murder, for the shooting at a packed midnight screening of a Batman film. at a multiplex in the Denver suburb of Aurora.

The death penalty, which is legal in Colorado, was not used in the case as the jury did not unanimously agree that Holmes should receive the punishment for the attack on 20 July 2012.

Judge Carlos A Samour Jr sentenced the former neuroscience student after survivors - including member of the emergency services who attended the incident - gave testimonies in court over two emotional days.

Holmes’ mother Arlene also addressed the court, and testified earlier during the trial that schizophrenia was to blame for their son's actions, and she said on Tuesday that the couple pray for those left behind.

“We do not refer to ourselves as victims because we cannot be placed in the same category as everyone else. We cannot feel the depths of your pain,” she said.

“We are very sorry this tragedy has happened, and sorry that everyone has suffered so much.”

The cinema where moviegoers were attacked (Image: Getty)

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However, Samour said on Wednesday whatever illness Holmes may have suffered, there was overwhelming evidence that a significant part of his conduct had been driven by "moral obliquity, mental depravity ... anger, hatred, revenge, or similar evil conditions."

Before the sentencing, District Attorney George Brauchler told the judge: “The maximum sentence for the maximum evil, your honor,” and told the court he wished Holmes could spend his days in solitary confinement, surrounded by photos of the people he killed.

Officials must now decide where Holmes will be detained, as he has been diagnosed with varying forms of schizophrenia, meaning he could be sent to the corrections department's mental hospital, or an out-of-state prison.

Holmes carried out the massacre after moving from California to Colorado in 2011, to attend the prestigious postgraduate neuroscience program at the University of Colorado, Denver. However, he dropped out after a year.

By that time, he had carefully planned his attack – including stockpiling ammunition and studying the theatre complex to choose the auditorium would allow for the most casualties.

On the evening of the attack, he rigged his apartment with explosives in order to divert the emergency services from the scene of the attack, but the devices failed to detonate. 

Community members erect twelve crosses at a remembrance ceremony = in Aurora (Image: Getty)

People continue visit the roadside memorial set up for victims of the Colorado theater shooting massacre (Image: Getty)

Following his trial, the jury rejected Holmes' insanity plea in July, however one juror appeared to have been swayed by defence arguments that he did not deserve execution because he suffers from mental illness.

Defence lawyers argued that Holmes had been obsessed with the idea of mass killing since childhood schizophrenia and psychotic delusions led him to carry out the attack. His decision to study neuroscience was hinged on the fact that he wanted to discover what was wrong with him, they said.

However, prosecutors used Holmes’ elaborate planning and the fact he didn’t tell anyone of his urges to create a winning case.

Defense lawyers have said they have no plans to appeal.

Additional reporting by AP and Reuters