Accessibility links

Breaking News

Colorado Movie Theater Gunman Given 12 Life Sentences

Colorado theater shooter James Holmes (right) appears in court with his attorney Daniel King to be formally sentenced as Prosecutor George Brauchler looks on, in Centennial, Colorado, Aug. 26, 2015.

A judge in Colorado has sentenced movie theater gunman James Holmes to 12 life sentences and the maximum 3,318 years in prison for his deadly rampage at a movie theater near Denver three years ago.

Survivors and family members erupted in applause as Arapahoe County District Court Judge Carlos Samour announced the sentence Wednesday.

"It is the court's intention that the defendant never set foot in free society again. If there was ever a case that warranted the maximum sentences, this is the case," the judge said.

Samour ordered Holmes to serve 12 consecutive life sentences without the possibility of parole, one for each of the people he killed in the July 20, 2012 attack on a crowded movie theater.

He then added another 3,312 years for 70 convictions of attempted murder, and six years for an explosives charge.

A jury last month found Holmes, a 27-year-old former neuroscience graduate student from California, guilty of the massacre in a suburban theater during a showing of the Batman film "The Dark Knight Rises."

Police testimony during the trial showed Holmes bought a ticket to the midnight screening of the movie and sat in the front row. About 20 minutes into the premiere, he left the theater and returned dressed in black, and threw two gas canisters into the audience before opening fire with a 12-gauge shotgun, a semi-automatic assault rifle and a .40 caliber handgun. Police said 76 shots were fired.

During his four-month trial, two court appointed psychiatrists testified for the prosecution that while the defendant was severely mentally ill, he was sane when he plotted and carried out the massacre.

The defense said Holmes was delusional and schizophrenic, and cannot be held legally accountable.

Jurors, however, rejected the insanity defense and convicted him on July 16 of 165 felony counts. Earlier this month, he was given a preliminary sentence of life in prison after a jury failed to unanimously agree on the death penalty for him.