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By Erin McClam

A jury voted on Monday to keep the death penalty as an option for James Holmes, the gunman who killed 12 people at a screening of a Batman movie in Aurora, Colorado, three years ago.

The sentencing phase now proceeds to the final phase, when jurors will decide between death and a sentence of life in prison.

Jurors had the option of ruling out the death penalty after hearing last week from defense witnesses — including Holmes’ parents, who in emotional testimony asked the jury to spare his life because he is mentally ill.

His father, Robert Holmes, said that he and his wife had no idea before the massacre that their eldest child was mentally ill or wanted to kill.

He said he still loved his son. Asked by a defense lawyer why, Holmes responded, "Well, he's my son and, you know, we always got along pretty well and he was actually an excellent kid."

Other witnesses described James Holmes as a happy, friendly child. The defense also called a court-appointed psychiatrist who said that severe mental illness, not hatred or a desire for notoriety, drove Holmes to kill.

The same jury rejected an insanity defense and convicted Holmes of murdering 12 people and trying to kill 70 more in the attack, at a screening of “The Dark Knight Rises” in July 2012.