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Aurora Movie Theater Shooter Sentenced to Life in Prison After Jury Can't Reach Verdict

Staff Report
NBCNews.com

A Colorado jury ruled Friday that Aurora movie theater shooter James Holmes will be sentenced to life in prison for killing 12 people more than three years ago.

The nine-woman, three-man jury could not reach a unanimous decision and returned after less than seven hours of deliberation with the understanding that as a result, Holmes would not be sentenced to death but rather, life in prison without the possibility of parole.

The same jury found Homes guilty of 24 counts of murder — two for each person he killed on July 20, 2012 — in July.

During subsequent decisions, the jury had swiftly ruled that there were substantial "aggravating factors" to consider the death penalty for Holmes, and that the defense's arguments against execution didn't outweigh those factors.

In all, jurors sat through three months of often-grueling testimony from survivors and victims' families.

Survivors shared their accounts of the horrific scene and the lasting physical and emotional effects of the massacre. Victims' family members delivered heart-wrenching recollections of loved ones lost and missed.

District Attorney George Brauchler argued that death was "the only appropriate sentence." Twelve people were killed and 70 others were injured when Holmes opened fire during a midnight screening of "The Dark Knight Rises" on July 20, 2012.

Defense attorneys said that the shooting was the result of a psychotic breakdown suffered by a mentally ill man and said the death penalty was not a suitable sentence for someone diagnosed with schizophrenia.

Survivors and families of the twelve victims were not in complete agreement over whether Holmes should receive the death penalty. Some called it the only just sentence, while others feared years of appeals that typically follow a death penalty ruling.

Holmes will become the fourth person on Colorado's death row. Of the 31 capital punishment states, Colorado ranks near the bottom in executions. Only one person has been executed in that state in the modern era of the death penalty in that state.

Of the three now on death row, one was granted a reprieve and appeals are pending for the other two. 

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