8 Aug 2015

Batman film gunman spared death penalty

11:45 am on 8 August 2015

A jury in the US state of Colorado has spared gunman James Holmes the death penalty for killing 12 people at a screening of a Batman film in 2012.

James Holmes in court in Colorado in July 2012.

James Holmes in court in Colorado in July 2012. Photo: AFP

He will serve life in jail without the possibility of parole.

The defence team had argued that the former neuroscience graduate student, now 27, was insane at the time.

But the jury unanimously agreed with prosecutors who had said that Holmes, though mentally ill, was responsible for his actions.

He could only have received the death penalty if the jury had been unanimous.

In July, Holmes was convicted on 165 counts of murder, attempted murder and an explosives charge.

Families of victims had appeared to be conflicted over whether Holmes should get the death penalty.

Some were worried about the long process of appeals that often follow a death sentence and wanted closure in the case more quickly.

On 20 July 2012, Holmes slipped into a midnight screening of Batman film, The Dark Knight Rises, in Aurora, Colorado, armed with an assault rifle, a shotgun and a pistol.

The prosecution said he was listening to loud techno music on headphones during the assault "to block out the screams" as he opened fire. He threw smoke canisters and shot at people trying to escape.

Prosecutors argued the attack was clearly premeditated, with Mr Holmes planning and amassing weapons for months, as well as elaborately booby-trapping his apartment to kill anyone who tried to enter.

His parents, Robert and Arlene Holmes said their son was "not a monster", but suffers from severe mental illness.

-BBC

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