Family Members, Prosecutor Disappointed That James Holmes Will Live

Breaking News Emails

Get breaking news alerts and special reports. The news and stories that matter, delivered weekday mornings.
By Phil Helsel

Some family members and authorities reacted with disappointment and anger Friday after a jury failed to approve the death penalty for Aurora movie theater gunman James Holmes.

The prosecutor, District Attorney George Brauchler, appeared to get emotional while reading the names of the victims at a news conference, and said he apologized to the families of the victims.

"It’s not personal disappointment," he said. "It’s the disappointment of hearing it in those soft sobs and those moans of those family members of the people we can’t ever see again."

The jury of nine women and three men rejected defense claims that Holmes was legally insane when he opened fire during a midnight screening of "The Dark Knight Rises" on July 20, 2012, killing 12 people and injuring 70 others.

The jury also voted to keep the death penalty as an option, but on Friday failed to reach a unanimous decision on a death sentence, meaning Holmes will be sentenced to life in prison without possibility of parole.

Robert Sullivan, whose 6-year-old granddaughter, Veronica Moser-Sullivan, was killed in the attack, found the jury’s failure to agree on the death penalty hard to understand. He believes a holdout juror stood in the way of a death sentence.

"When you look at every stage of the verdicts ... it doesn’t make sense, and I don’t believe it,” Sullivan said. "He’s living, he’s breathing, and our loved ones are gone," he said.

A breakdown of the jury's vote was not released. A deliberating juror who only identified herself as "juror 17" said the jury ended deliberations Friday after a juror made it clear she would not budge from her opposition to death for Holmes.

Brauchler said he respected the decision of the jury, saying they "did a hell of a job" through the lengthy, months-long trial.

A representative for the Holmes family said the family was unable to comment on the verdict Friday, but "they are deeply sorry this has happened and they are so sorry that the victims and families have suffered such tremendous loss," they said in a statement.

Sandy Phillips, whose daughter, Jessica Ghawi, was killed in the attack, attended every day of court except for one. She said the families of the victims have given each other comfort throughout the lengthy trial.

"Our lives are forever altered, and the thought that this monster gets to have visitation with his parents and gets to receive mail ... It’s very hard to accept, but it is what it is," she said.

"All we can do as a group, as a family, is continue to support and love each other as we have."