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Jury says Batman gunman mental illness no bar to execution

04 august 2015, 11:50

The US jury deciding the fate of James Holmes, who gunned down 12 people at a "Batman" movie premiere, on Monday refused to take the death penalty off the table, AFP reports.

The jury deliberated for just two hours before finding that Holmes' mental illness was not a mitigating factor in the July 20, 2012, shootings in Aurora, Colorado.

In Colorado death penalty cases, after a guilty verdict jurors are asked to deliberate three times as to whether to request lethal injection or life in prison without parole.

If jurors fail to find unanimously against the defendant in either of the first two stages assessing aggravating or mitigating factors, the trial ends with an automatic sentence of life in prison.

The second phase of the sentencing hearing was the best hope the defense had to avoid a death penalty for the shooter.

Defense attorneys called Holmes' family members and teachers from his early life as well as psychiatrists in hopes of showing how his mental illness progressed from a fairly early age.

Last week, proceedings were interrupted by a woman who stood up and shouted "Don't kill him!" repeatedly before being removed from the courtroom.

The jurors will return to court on Tuesday to hear testimony and arguments considering the impact on victims of the shootings before deliberating a third time on whether the appropriate sentence is death or prison.

During the guilt or innocence part of the trial, jurors heard from several of the 70 wounded survivors, including Caleb Medley, a once promising comedian who is now confined to a wheelchair with limited ability to speak.

The prosecution could also recall Ashley Moser, the mother of the youngest of the dead, six-year-old Veronica. She also lost an unborn child as the result of her injuries.

Holmes, a 27-year-old former graduate student, has been in custody since the night of the mass murder during a midnight premier showing of "The Dark Knight Rises." He pleaded not-guilty by reason of insanity.

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