Relatives of those slain by Colorado movie theater gunman James Holmes have said they want him to ‘go into oblivion’ after he was spared execution – reportedly by a single juror.
Holmes, 27, will be given a sentence of life imprisonment after a jury couldn’t decide whether to give him the death penalty for murdering 12 people at a 2012 screening of Batman movie The Dark Knight Rises.
Families of those killed – one of whom was just six years old – wailed and walked out of the courtroom as the judge announced the verdicts, more than three years after the attacks.
The parents of 24-year-old Jessica Ghawi, one of the 12 victims, said that they never want to hear of Holmes again after he is sentenced.
Speaking outside the courthouse after the verdict, Lonnie Phillips said: ‘We want him to go into oblivion and not to be seen or heard from again’.
His wife, Sandy, spoke of the suffering she felt at losing her daughter – but also accepted that the jury chose ‘another way’ by avoiding the death sentence.
In remarks broadcast by the Denver Post, she said: ‘We’ve lost loved ones – we didn’t lose loved ones, our loved ones were ripped from us and they were slaughtered in that movie theater. But the jury chose another way and we have to accept that.’
Phillips continued: ‘Our lives are forever altered, and the thought that this monster gets to have visitation with his parents and gets to receive mail and pictures of his very strange girlfriends is very hard to accept’.
She also urged media outlets to avoid naming and picturing him so he would not become notorious.
A panel of nine women and three men failed to reach a unanimous verdict on whether Holmes should be punished with a lethal injection for what he claims was a moment of madness prompted by his mental illness.
Outside the courtroom after the announcement, one of the 12 jurors said that a single hold-out stopped Holmes being sentenced to death.
As a result, he will automatically receive the less severe punishment of life in prison with no possibility of parole for the attack, which took place in July 2012.
Relatives of the victims began filing out of the courtroom before the judge had finished reading the verdicts, while Holmes’s mother, who has begged for clemency, burst into tears.
Holmes had already been convicted on 12 counts of first-degree murder, which can carry the death penalty, as well as other related charges.
However, while many spoke of their disappointment at the verdict, one victim’s relative thanked jurors for sparing Holmes.
Jordan Ghawi, the brother of slain Jessica Ghawi, posted a tweet, saying: ‘Thank you jurors for letting reason and not emotion guide you in your decision.’
He criticized the cost of the trial and the additional anguish that the court hearings had brought.
Prosecutors argued Holmes deserved to die because he methodically planned the 2012 assault at a midnight screening the movie, even blasting techno music through ear phones so he wouldn’t hear his victims scream.
The same jury rejected Holmes’ insanity defense, finding him capable of understanding right from wrong when he carried out the attack.
It also quickly determined that the heinousness of Holmes’ crimes outweighed his mental illness in an earlier procedural step that brought them closer to the death penalty.
District attorney George Brauchler defended his decision to seek the death penalty, saying he was carrying out the will of the community and many – though not all – of the victims’ families.
After the verdict, he said: ‘This was a case that was of such a magnitude and such an impact on this community [that we had to prosecute].’
‘Let’s be candid here, this is a guy who… spent nearly three months planning the deaths of not one, not ten but hundreds of people in this community’.
As it was read, Holmes’ mother Arlene, who had pleaded for jurors to spare her son’s life, leaned her head against her husband’s shoulder and sobbed.
Read more: dailymail.co.uk