A Colorado judge on Wednesday sentenced James Holmes to life in prison without parole with an additional 3,318 consecutive years, closing the book on a three-year saga that started when Holmes walked into a midnight screening of ‘The Dark Knight Rises’ and opened fire on the audience. Earlier this month the jury involved in the trial decided Holmes should receive a life sentence after they were unable to reach a unanimous decision to have him executed for the 12 murders he committed. Judge Carlos Samour was required to pronounce 12 life sentences for the murders and punishment for other crimes he was convicted including attempted murder of the other people in the audience and booby trapping his apartment to draw medical responders away.
Holmes spent months accumulating weapons and ammunition and practiced shooting before he donned all-black body armor and stepped through the auditorium’s emergency exit. Testimony from survivors painted a heart-rending picture of an evening filled with terror as Holmes, his hair dyed orange, tossed a tear gas canister toward the exits and then began shooting terrified movie goers. Veteran police officers broke down in tears as they testified of their efforts to save victims, in many cases driving them to nearby hospitals in their patrol cars.
James Holmes displayed no reaction when Samour spoke for more than an hour before pronouncing sentence for the attack on the theater. Judge Samour addressed family members and the public who were disappointed Holmes did not receive the death penalty pointing out that the case was complete and that victims and their families would not have to spend another 10 years in appeals, forcing survivors to be re-victimized. “The defendant will never be a free man again, ever,” Samour said. “The place of death, generally speaking, has been determined. The only question that remains unanswered is the time of death.”
Holmes’ mother, Arlene, was the final witness to take the lectern Tuesday. She said her son feels remorse for his deadly attack on a Colorado movie theater. She said his mental illness and medications make it hard for him to express it. “We know that is very, very hard for people to see,” Arlene Holmes testified. “We cannot feel the depths of your pain. We can only listen to everything you have expressed, and we pray for you. … We are very sorry this tragedy happened, and sorry everyone has suffered so much.”
District Attorney George Brauchler shared his belief again that seeking the death penalty was the right decision and blasted the idea that Holmes expressed any kind of remorse. To the end, Holmes’ state-appointed attorneys blamed the massacre on his schizophrenia and psychotic delusions. They said Holmes was obsessed with the idea of mass killing since childhood, and he pursued neuroscience in an effort to find out what was wrong with his brain. Prosecutors pointed both to Holmes’ elaborate planning for the attack and his refusal to divulge to anyone — family, friends, psychiatrists — that he was thinking, and planning, murder.
Holmes’ attorney will not seek an appeal sparing the victims the possibility of another emotionally wrenched trial. Holmes’ sentencing hearing was largely symbolic but gave scores of victims an unprecedented chance to vent their feelings to the judge.