The jurors who convicted James Holmes of murder over the Colorado cinema shooting have unanimously decided that they can consider the death penalty in his sentencing.
They said capital punishment is justified because Holmes murdered a large number of victims; caused a grave risk of death to others; committed murder in a heinous, cruel or depraved manner; and laid in wait or ambush.
One factor jurors said prosecutors did not prove was that Holmes intentionally killed a child, but the other “aggravating factors” ensure that jurors will continue to consider whether he should die for his crimes.
Prosecutors must still clear two more hurdles before Holmes can be sentenced to die.
Prosecutors said Holmes wanted to murder as many as he could in the audience of more than 400 people but failed to kill more than 12 because his assault rifle jammed. The defence offered no counterargument in this first phase of his sentencing.
The defence will now lead the next phase, trying to show that his mental illness and other “mitigating factors” make it wrong to execute him in any case. Jurors will then deliberate for a second time, deciding whether the extent of his mental problems outweighs the lifelong suffering Holmes caused.
If so, the trial would end there, with a life sentence instead of the death penalty.
If not, the sentencing will move into a third and final phase, in which victims and their relatives would describe the impacts of Holmes’s crimes.