CENTENNIAL, Colo. — Jurors in the Colorado theater massacre trial of James Holmes decided Monday that the sentencing phase will continue to a third phase where they will decide whether to sentence him to death.
Holmes, who grew up in San Diego, shot and killed 12 people and injured scores more in 2012 in a movie theater in Aurora, Colo.
Under Colorado law, death penalty proceedings move through three phases. If the jury had decided that the mitigating factors presented by Holmes’ defense team during phase two outweighed the aggravating factors presented by prosecutors in phase one, the trial would have ended with Holmes sentenced to life in prison without parole for the murders in the Aurora movie theater.
Instead, the trial will continue to a third phase in which the jury will have to decide between life in prison and the death penalty. This phase will feature shooting survivors and relatives of the dead talking about what they’ve lost and how their lives have been forever changed. After the testimony, jurors will decide whether Holmes lives or dies.
Holmes was convicted of 165 counts of murder last month in an emotional day in court for the family and loved ones of people he killed.
Jurors began deliberating Thursday on the second phase of how to proceed with sentencing.
Prosecutors had argued that the jury should continue to death penalty proceedings which would be a final, third phase under Colorado law. Holmes’ attorneys urged the jury to give Holmes a life sentence and end the months-long trial.
His attorneys have said that his schizophrenia mitigated the capital crimes for which he was convicted.
Holmes had pleaded not guilty by reason of insanity and when the jury declared his guilt he showed no reaction.
By virtue of his insanity plea, Holmes never denied he was responsible for the slayings.