BREAKING: Aurora Shooter Avoids Death Penalty


The woman, known as juror 17, did not want to give her name. She says there was one firm holdout on the jury who did not want to sentence the shooter to death. Juror 17 says two others were on the fence.

“That person was solidly in that position we learned,” she said. “They weren’t sure but they probably would have discussed it further had the other juror not been solidly in favor of the life sentence.”

She said the holdout juror was a woman, but did not give the number of the juror. She believes mental illness may have been an issue.

Aurora Sentinel:

District Attorney George Brauchler was joined by Aurora Police Chief Nick Metz and Aurora Fire Chief Mike Garcia, flanked by family members of the shooting victims, outside the courthouse Friday evening as he expressed his disappointment in the verdict.

“While I am disappointed with the outcome, I am not disappointed with the system,” he said.

As for the potential plea deal the defense offered shortly after he took office in early 2013, Brauchler said he was “open minded” to the idea. But, he said he told defense lawyers that if he was going to consider a deal, he would need to see Holmes’ medical records, the notebook he mailed to his therapist, and have a doctor of his choice examine Holmes.

The defense refused, he said.


Arapahoe County DA George Brauchler.

Arapahoe County DA George Brauchler.

Huge and unexpected news out of Arapahoe County this evening, Denver Post:

James Holmes will spend the rest of his life in a prison cell instead of dying in an execution chamber, jurors in the Aurora movie theater shooting trial decided Friday.

After deliberating for less than seven hours over two days, the jury of nine women and three men failed to unanimously agree that death is the appropriate punishment. The disagreement means Judge Carlos Samour Jr. will sentence Holmes to life in prison without the possibility of parole for the murders of 12 people at the Century Aurora 16 theater three years ago.

We’ll update with statements and coverage as they come in–but clearly a major defeat for Arapahoe County DA George Brauchler, who pushed for the death penalty in this case with higher political aspirations in mind and appears to have lost big. Here’s a Tweet from Jordan Ghawi, brother of Aurora shooting victim Jessica Ghawi from before the verdict was announced:

Stay tuned for more information. This decision will have a lasting impact on Colorado politics.

47 Community Comments, Facebook Comments

  1. notaskinnycook says:

    All of that money, time and nightmarish testimony to get what was offered to ​begin with. Nice going, George. I can see your political career really going places. I'm glad he'll spend his life in a cage. He's crazy and dangerous, but probably too crazy to ever put to sleep.

    • Andrew Carnegie says:

      Hindsight is 20-20.

      A DA should have sought the death penalty and if society, as represented by the Jury, is divided on its application, even under these extreme circumstances, this is the process working out.  Just because some liberal bed-wetters are against the death penalty under all circumstances does not mean the DA should not have sought the law's most severe sanction.

      Get over it.

      • FrankUnderwood says:

        You want your taxes raised to pay for Brauchler's expensive exercise in futility (a/k/a "the process working out")?

        As for the closure to the surviving victims and the families of the deceased victims, they can look forward to closure in about 15 to 20 years when the last of the federal court collateral challenges to Holmes' conviction get resolved. As was pointed out by other on here, a guilty plea would have resulted in a waiver of appeals and collateral challenges and ended the case then and there. But Brauchler said, "No."


      • exlurker19 says:

        Displacement:  accusing others of things that you are guilty of (and it is such a Repub thing), but there are meds to help you stop wetting the bed, AC.  Ask your doctor.

      • MichaelBowman says:

        "Liberal bed-wetters"… like the ones in Nebraska? Pope Francis?  I was in a rural Cornhusker hamlet last week (not far from Dumphuckistan) at a small cafe for lunch and the topic there was the ballot initiative (funded with $200,000 of their Governors personal fortune) to overturn the Unicameral's decision.  Lots of bravado by those brave souls, foretelling how they're going to show those liberals in Lincoln and Omaha who's really boss in the state.  

        They are as proficient in mathematics are our very own secessionists.   


      • spaceman65 says:

        I'll get over it when the millions this cost the county and state are repaid.  Thanks, George!


        • Conserv. Head Banger says:

          "liberal bed wetters……….."  Funny comment. But let's not get distracted over who is wetting whose bed. I have generally supported the death penalty. But my view is changing due to new science; DNA testing; that has cleared a number of death row inmates and others imprisoned for long sentences. There is also the matter that a death penalty isn't much of a deterrent anyway. If someone is going to commit a capital crime, they likely are in the heat of the moment and not thinking "death penalty." 

          • DaftPunk says:

            It would seem to me that supporting the death penalty would be the best way of saying "I trust big government."

          • BlueCat says:

            And schizophrenics are hardly likely to be deterred by rational consideration of consequences.

          • Andrew Carnegie says:


            I think DNA testing is a good thing and that the death penalty has been over used.  That said, horrific crime, no issue as to identity of criminal, etc, I have no problem with it.

            Deterrence issue is not just as to the perpetrator, but society as a whole.

            • BlueCat says:

              Here in Colorado the death sentence has only resulted in one actual execution in decades and in that case only because the convicted killer demanded an end to appeals.  The death sentence in Colorado pretty much functions as life in prison while appealing and costing tax payers huge quantities of  tax payer dollars and preventing anything close to closure for families. 

              There is zero evidence that frequent executions, as in Texas, act as a deterrent but ever increasing evidence that innocents have been executed and that it is applied so arbitrarily it's more of a crap shoot than an act of justice with the odds stacked against non-whites, and most particularly against those whose victims were white. 

              But hey, if you think keeping Holmes around as a media star for two extra years for a result far worse than what the prosecutor could have realized by taking the deal… guilty, done, no appeals, no more publicity for the killer…you're entitled to that opinion, irrational as it may be. Most of your opinions are.

      • BlueCat says:

        As usual, AC, you miss the entire point. Next time you complain about entitlements or providing reliable birth control to low income women or any of your other shrink government pet peeves, remember how much money Brauchler wasted on this entire needless process just because he forgot Colorado isn't Texas so this wasn't the best way to get to be Governor. If there's any bed wetting going on right now, it's happening Chez Brauchler.

        Also remember that, in this case, the death penalty would almost certainly have been no more than a very long, drawn out, expensive dog and pony show with next to zero chance of Holmes ever being executed. And remember that Brauchler knew that from day one. He wasn't seeking death for Holmes. He knew that probably would never happen. He was seeking political life for himself.

        I'm proud of living in state where it's this hard to find 12 people all willing to sentence a schizophrenic or mentally deficient person to death. If you aren't, why don't you move to Texas?

      • notaskinnycook says:

        This got moved down, it’s to A.C.

         Listen Idiot, as most of the people here know, I had a couple of dogs in that fight. It happened on my wedding anniversary and, but for the grace of a boss who scheduled him to work the next day, my nephew would have been there with a group of friends; one of whom was killed. I'm no bleeding heart, But this guy is seriously mentally ill. He'll be more so after spending a few years alone in a cage with no one to talk to but the voices in his head. The condemned has to be sane to be put to sleep.Furthermore, it takes so long to carry out a death penalty in this state, that most people would have forgotten what it was for. The last execution here, carried out just a couple of years ago, was for a crime committed in, I think, 1982.

        • exlurker19 says:

          Last execution in Colorado was in 1967.  The Chuckie Cheese killer was to be executed, but we can't get the stuff to commit the murder.  (I know, repetitive, but really, we can't get the stuff.)

          • BlueCat says:

            And he was executed only after after he himself insisted on an end to appeals. So every prosecutor knows full well going into these cases that there is little chance of a death sentence ending in an actual execution.

            Do you suppose Brauchler ever made that clear to the victims and families? Do you suppose he ever told them… OK. We'll go for it if you want but we've been offered a guilty plea in exchange for life without parole and there's very little chance you'll ever see Holmes executed. Even if we win the process will go on for decades and may well never result in an execution…?

          • spaceman65 says:

            Last execution was Gary Lee Davis in 1997, the only execution since the death penalty was reinstated in Colorado in 1975.


            • BlueCat says:

              Of course you're right. Inverted 9, I guess.  Still true that he was executed only after he demanded an end to the appeals. Space man obviously ain't no space case!

            • notaskinnycook says:

              I finally thought to look it up, and it's kinda spooky. Ginny May, Gary Davis' victim was murdered on July 21, 1986. What is it about that time of year that brings out the creeps?

          • Voyageur says:

            exlurker, the problem wasn't getting the stuff to execute Dunlop, the problem was a governor who wanted to play both ends against the middle.   He put Dunlop';s execution on hold but refused to commute the sentence, so the next gov could execute him.   A very shabby performance by Hickenlooper.   I can respect both sides of the capital punishment debate but not a refusal to take a stand when you're governor and it's your duty to decide.

        • BlueCat says:

          You're fine. We're both in the AC reply box. I know the nesting boxes can be confusing. Now I'm in your reply box along with exlurker.smiley

          • FrankUnderwood says:

            I noticed that A/C came on here, posted and then crawled back under his rock. Or were he and Moddy recalled to the hive to download new talking points re:  how to respond to comments about Trump's not-so-veiled remarks about Megyn Kelly?

      • MADCO says:

        I oppose the death penalty because I am pro-life.

  2. BlueCat says:

    The Jury surprised me. I thought it was going to be death. The only difference, after all this, between the deal offered and the sentence is that where accepting the plea deal would have resulted in the same sentence it also would have ended the process. No appeals. This way there will still be appeals, automatic appeals, if nothing else, to the guilty verdict. It will still be possible to argue that he should have been found not guilty by reason of insanity, an argument that would have been moot had they let Holmes plead guilty in exchange for life without parole in the first place.  

    No wonder Brauchler was wringing his hands. this is the worst possible total fail outcome for the SOB. He put everyone through all of this for a worse outcome for all of the victims families and survivors than what he was offered and he did it to advance his political aspirations.  He’s the buck stops here responsible party for this entire waste of time and funds and for prolonging the suffering of the families.

    • Davie says:

      I was very surprised too.  I thought phase 2 of deliberations would be the stopping point if one or more had reservations about imposing the death penalty.  Perhaps the juror(s) that finally decided putting a mentally sick person to death was wrong, also wanted to let the process run its full course, letting the families and victims have their say.

      A year ago the Aurora Sentinal had this to say:

      Clearly, this trial will cost millions of dollars, and many millions more will be spent if Holmes is sentenced to death. The push to execute convicted 1993 Chuck E. Cheese’s murder Nathan Dunlap has cost more than $18 million, so far.

      So in addition to the roughly $5 million already spent, if even this sentence results in automatic appeals, the tab will continue to grow.

      I have no doubt that even if the jury had returned a sentence of death, Holmes would have outlived the death penalty in Colorado.  It is on its last legs.

  3. mamajama55 says:

    It doesn't matter. Not to the victims, not to their families. The killer will slowly rot in his own misery, and die in prison. Perhaps he'll get sane enough to understand and regret what he did. Or not.

    Eventually, the United States will join the rest of the civilized world in renouncing the death penalty. Our "justice system" can't kill people anymore without torturing them to death. I no longer believe that makes anything better for anyone.

  4. BlueCat says:

    It matters that Brauchler put them through all of this additional, unrelenting horror for years for no reason other than his own ambition.

    Prosecutors defend the death penalty as a bargaining chip. Well it worked, There can be only one reason why he turned down the opportunity to put away a clearly schizophrenic defendant for life without parole, without further appeals, absolutely guaranteed and that reason has nothing to do with justice, closure, or concern for the families.

    It would have been a resolution and whether they liked that resolution or not they would have been better off these past years learning to accept it, deal with it, receiving counseling and therapy to help them do so instead of having their pain and grief used by this ambitious, arrogant SOB for his own selfish ends. 

    He's done them immeasurable further harm in addition to everything else they'e suffered. They still don't have a resolution. There will still be appeals even though the death penalty is forever off the table. It's unlikely but not absolutely impossible that an appeal of the guilty verdict could result in Holmes being found innocent by reason of insanity. That is theoretically back on the table though death is definitely not. It has all been not just for nothing but for worse than nothing.

    Brauchler screwed them and everyone else, from the tax payers to the jurors to the victims and families, but good and I can only hope he's thoroughly screwed himself in the process and that the SOB's career never recovers.

    The jury  members that lasted through to the end, a  group of people who never should have had to go through all this in the first place, had a very tough job. They did it well and deserve our respect though I suspect they'll receive a lot of misdirected hate for their decision.

  5. notaskinnycook says:

    If the guilty verdict is ever set aside due to Holmes' mental state at the time of the event, my hope is that he will spend the rest of his life in Pueblo. He's way too crazy to let loose on society at large ever again.

    • BlueCat says:

      It's highly unlikely an appeal will change anything but if Brauchler had accepted the plea anything other than life in prison without parole would have been completely off the table.  Period. 

    • mamajama55 says:

      What have you got against Pueblo, cook?

      j/k I know what you mean.  He may end up in San Carlos, though. People who wanted Holmes to die can take comfort in the fact that San Carlos has a record of letting its psych patients die.  No prison does a good job incarcerating and treating mentally ill inmates.

      They tend to isolate them from other inmates, just as a management strategy. Mentally ill people are already isolated within their own heads. Treatment is usually limited to medication, possibly a once a week session with a psychiatrist. Someone as crazy as Holmes would probably not get to go to any group sessions, either.

      • gertie97 says:

        Not really, Mama. A seriously whacko. Michael Stegner, went on a delusional rampage in Rifle a few years ago, killing four people in a trailer park. The DA agreed with the public defender that the death penalty was out of reach. They settled for insanity. Fast-forward to earlier this year, when the so-called experts recommended he be started on a program of weekend releases. But, alas, there was just enough of an outcry to keep him under lock and key, for now.

        The victims, it should be mentioned, were all Hispanic and a mixture of legals and illegals. There's no one of consequence, really, speaking for them.


        • mamajama55 says:

          Thanks, Gertie. You're right about the insane killers being released early, and it's chilling. Stagner (correct spelling), killed four people in 2001.He was acquitted by reason of insanity, locked up in Pueblo's CMHI, and has been getting out on therapy appointments for the last three years.

          Kirk Mitchell's 4/15 Post article found that 3/5 of "not guilty by reason of insanity" killers were released into halfway houses and homes in the community.

          There is a racial component – all of the killers profiled in the Post article are white. Their victims were various ethnicities, including John Hand, who started and ran Colorado Free University, a beloved Denver institution.

          All of the people currently on Colorado's death row are black.

          Holmes, though, tried to plead "not guilty by reason of insanity", but that plea was rejected. He was found guilty of murder, and sentenced to prison without possibility of parole. His mental illness was the only thing that saved him from the death penalty, per Pols O. P. So he can't go to a mental institution in Pueblo or anywhere else -he has to go to a prison, and San Carlos is the only one with any solid psych program.

          If I'm wrong, talk me down.

      • notaskinnycook says:

        You know more about the various facilities than I do, mamaj, which is kinda sad, since my brother (who lives in Pueblo West) teaches in one of the womens'  prisons.

  6. DaftPunk says:

    Hopefully Brauchler's political aspirations get the death penalty.

      • Conserv. Head Banger says:

        "Brauchler's political aspirations……."  Not likely this trial will have much impact on his career, especially if he waits until 2018. Those who think his career is dead over-estimate the collective memory of the electorate.    C.H.B.  

        • BlueCat says:

          True but also true that he can't resurrect it to use to his advantage. He got two years of solid free name rec publicity. People will, as you say, forget that over the years.  But, had he won, he could have reminded everyone that he was the tough prosecutor who got the toughest justice, the death penalty, for the victims and families in the notorious Aurora Theater shootings the next time he wanted to run for anything.  But he isn't victorious so he'll never be able to use it to his advantage as he obviously had planned to. His opponents, however, will no doubt be sure to remind everyone of the fiasco.

  7. RavenDawg says:

    As a liberal Dem unconditionally opposed to the death penalty, I think DA Brauchler did the right thing. 

    Given that Colorado has the death penalty legally in effect; and that the victims' families did not agree in advance to the offer of a plea bargain for life in prison; I think it was better for the community to make this decision, rather than to cut a deal without going thru the trial.  There will always be those who were unsatisfied because Holmes was not put to death. And nothing that could happen to Holmes one way or another can alter the loss of the survivors.  But I hope that some can find closure from knowing that with all facts in the open, this was the decision from a jury of their peers. 

    Down the road I hope that this trial, and the failure to agree to execution even in such heinous circumstances, will be a significant step toward ending the death penalty for all.  In a better world, maybe the DA could have shown leadership to convince the families to spare Holmes' life in a plea deal.  But for now, I think this trial had to happen, and I am greatly relieved at the outcome.

    • BlueCat says:

      Disagree. Some of the families did ask for the deal to be accepted for reasons including avoiding a long and painful trial and more publicity for Holmes. Others did want the trial and the death penalty but probably never dreamed what the ensuing two years and subsequent decades if they got their wish would be like. 

      There was no question of what happened or who did it so a trial wasn't necessary to answer those questions. I noticed that one of the family members who, at this point, feels that Brauchler did his best and was disappointed  in the sentence also mentioned that at least she wouldn't have to see Holmes' orange haired picture all over the place any more. The sad truth is, she wouldn't have had to see that these past two years if the deal had been accepted.

      It wouldn't have been in the news at all except for rare items concerning his transfer to this or that facility. And it's generous of you to think Brauchler's motives were to serve the public and the families best interests but I seriously doubt that. This has kept his case and his name as the tough prosecutor seeking justice in the news for two solid years.  He expected those two years to be crowned by victory. He a also knew that his victory would mean decades of further torture for the families. I can't be as generous as you in seeing any altruistic motive here.

    • gertie97 says:

      RavenDawg, there's a misconception out there that victims need to agree with a proposed plea bargain or any other course of prosecution. That's not true; it's the DA's decision alone. That's why they get the big bucks. It wouldn't have mattered if every single surviving victim and relatives of those killed wanted a particular outcome — it's not their choice.

      Ask any DA. One of the toughest parts of their jobs is to explain to victims and/or their families why a particular course of action was or wasn't pursued.

      This glory-hounding DA has nobody but himself to blame for the outcome. For him to hide behind the victims is chickenshit.



      • Davie says:

        Chickenshit George Brauchler is also blaming it on the defense team's refusal (before any plea deal) to release the shooter's psych exams and the infamous notebook.

        As BC said above, Brauchler knew full well the years, millions in expense and ongoing pain to the victims that pursuing a show trial would extract.   Any hope of securing a death sentence wouldn't matter with little chance of it ever being carried out, all to benefit his career aspirations.  The very definition of cynicism.

  8. Cogito says:

    There are plenty of mentally ill prisoners who don't go to San Carlos.  The decision to place there is based less on severity of illness and more on whether the inmate can be managed somewhere else.  Given Holmes' high profile, I bet he will go to San Carlos after processing at the Denver Reception and Diagnostic Center for his own protection, at least for a while. 

  9. yameniye says:

    This sentence is good.  If he is not as insane as thought, he will get that way sitting in a cell.  If he is completely bonkers, then he will be lost forever sitting in a cell. 

    I have worked on capital cases in the past and it was without joy.  They are tough to be involved in on the prosecution side.  The defense has a lot of tools to use to keep their killer alive.

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