George Brauchler, lead prosecutor in the case against convicted Colorado theater shooter James Holmes, makes a point during an interview Friday, Aug. 14, 2015, in Centennial, Colo. Brauchler said that the jury's refusal to sentence Holmes to die for one of the worst massacres in the country's history does not mean the public is growing wary of capital punishment because only a single juror blocked the execution. (AP Photo/David Zalubowski)

CENTENNIAL | A jury’s refusal to sentence Aurora theater shooter James Holmes to die for one of the worst massacres in U.S. history doesn’t mean the public is growing wary of capital punishment, because only a single juror blocked his execution, the lead prosecutor said Friday.

The lone holdout felt just as strongly that Holmes should get a life sentence as the 11 other jurors believed he should die for the 2012 shooting, District Attorney George Brauchler said, based on prosecution interviews with some of the panel. Twelve people were killed and 70 others injured in the attack.

“They were surprised, shocked that this juror held this view, and this view, this adamantly,” he told The Associated Press in an interview one week after the jurors said they could not reach a unanimous verdict on each murder count. Their indecision automatically eliminated the death penalty for Holmes, who blamed the attack on schizophrenia and psychotic delusions. He will instead be sentenced to life in prison without parole.

The holdout hasn’t come forward to speak with prosecutors, but other jurors have said testimony about Holmes’ mental illness persuaded her to show mercy.

Death sentences in Colorado must be unanimous, and attorneys tell jurors that imposing death is their own personal, moral choice and to respect each other’s decisions.

The other jurors believed the holdout was strongly in favor of death until the end of their deliberations, when she revealed she was firmly in favor of a life sentence, Brauchler said.

When it was clear she wouldn’t budge, the jurors took a vote, and the holdout told them that if mental illness hadn’t been a part of Holmes’ defense, she too would have favored a death sentence, Brauchler said.

“It’s disappointing and frustrating,” he said. “But to extrapolate any more from that one juror’s decision to not impose death is misguided.”

The same jury swiftly rejected Holmes’ insanity defense, convicting him of 165 felony counts. And later, they swiftly agreed that his mental illness didn’t outweigh the heinousness of the attack, allowing the case to move closer to a death sentence.

Holmes’ attorneys have not spoken about the case, and Colorado Public Defender Douglas Wilson did not respond to several calls and emails seeking comment.

The case could have ended the same way more than two years ago, when Holmes offered to plead guilty if he could avoid the death penalty. But Brauchler said he would not accept it, in part because the defense refused to let Holmes be examined by a prosecution psychiatrist and would not provide the spiral notebook where Holmes scribbled detailed plans for the attack.

The victims and the public might not have ever learned in detail what was behind the shootings had the plea deal been accepted.

“This guy always intended to survive this, he intended to go to prison for life, and that did not seem to be a just outcome, to give him that without getting to know all the truth of this,” Brauchler said. “The more truth we discovered, the more we realized a truth the community has to come to grips with too, and that’s that mental illness and evil are not mutually exclusive. They can coexist, and in this case they coexisted and evil dominated.”

Prosecutor Lisa Teesch-Maguire said there were more than 1,200 victims and survivors involved in the case, though just 83 took the stand during the guilt phase. Prosecutors sought their input at every turn, including about whether to seek death, she said. They were almost evenly split. Some favored execution, while others feared the decades of appeals that accompany a death sentence.

Some favored life because they thought they would never actually see Holmes executed. Colorado has executed only one person in nearly half a century, and just three people sit on the state’s death row. The man closest to seeing his death sentence carried out was granted an indefinite reprieve in 2013 by the state’s Democratic governor.

The emotional, three-month trial that followed offered a rare look inside the mind of a mass shooter, as most are killed by police, kill themselves or plead guilty. Prosecutors were challenged to weave massive amounts of evidence and an outsized number of witnesses into a powerful narrative that would hold jurors’ attention while continually reminding them of the shooting’s human toll.

Brauchler and other members of the prosecution team said they had no regrets about their handling of the case.

“That being the case, it makes sense that if this was not going to result in death it would be because of a juror whose conscience kept them from doing what everyone else thought was the right thing,” Brauchler said.

39 replies on “DA: Aurora theater shooter’s life sentence came down to one juror ”

  1. Under todays PC world and judicial system, I believe in Arapahoe county Sheriff and District Attorney. But I am going to extend my belief and will honor that unknown juror, and hope name never is exposed. Whoever it was, cut off the spending for appeals, that lawyers chasing the almighty dollar would have continued to extract from we, the tax payers of Arapahoe County, and State of Colorado. I believe in death penalty, but all appeals must be in one bite of the apple, within 1 – 2 years at most, and death date must be set and executed. All lives matter, if only to show how to die for their crimes, and they will never kill or do what they did again.
    Families will have closure of victims and of the prisoners family. And society will not continue to be brutalized by governors, Presidents or others who decide on their own, “well they have suffered enough” so release them back into society to continue their ways. That is the way of true insanity for all. Those paying and suffering, and their victims.
    I taught my children, as I was taught. Society only works if we know the difference between right and wrong. Do wrong, and you pay the consequences. I have no respect for our so-called pretenders of being leaders. They are not leading, they are more abusive than the criminals.

    1. You mention one bite of the apple and I agree; but that’s not the way the system is designed. Taking into account the system, I am not disappointed with the decision. If it was one juror or many, its time to stop spending taxpayers money on a person who will never be a part of society again. I wonder if death penalty proponents would be willing to pay out of their pockets, the additional cost that continued appeals and legal maneuvers that would occur if the jury had ruled as Brauchler wished. I personally believe most of the taxpayer money spent on this case was a waste. A continuation of this case would not serve the people of Colorado. It would serve the Criminal Justice Industry, government and private. The beneficiaries would have been perhaps Brauchler and the buck chasing lawyers you mention. Over is over … move on.

      1. The ‘system’ needs overhauled, has for a long time now. It has always been perpetrator heavy, victim light. Even now as you support this one juror, your support is monetary based, not a word about the victims of this monster. And I don’t care if he was insane or not, he should be hung.

        Frank is right, streamline the system, one year for an appeal, if upheld, 2 weeks and you’re out of here.

        Do you think for a moment that this monster is done costing us money? Stop it. There will be teams of psychiatrists treating him, perhaps he’ll want to finish college, go on to medical school, who knows. The victims, well they’re DEAD, the other 70 scarred for life. But hey, they’re dead, why bother, correct?

        1. Just ask goo goo man. He has all the answers and zero substance to his convoluted conclusions base on wing ding conservatism.

          1. You can write plainer than that. Who are you insulting the goo goo bit? That is a democrat, young guy writing on his mothers computer, while he lives in basement. And you and I know that is not you, so why take on that persona? You may not like anyone’s opinion other than your own, but you don’t need to insult or demonize them? Leave that for the liberals who are vocabulary challenged.

          2. I am a moderate. Always have been. Only time I am conservative is when spending my money. I spend my own money too, unlike certain other people.

      2. ‘a person who will never be a part of society again’ Really? How about the two convicted murderer’s in upstate NY that were screwing the woman who worked for the prison system? They got out, both of them, ‘spend their lives in a 8 x 8 cell forever’ Not so fast. That is stuff of fiction and of liberals, do gooders, ‘individual rightists’, not factual beings.

      3. You mention the design of this system. It was not designed this way. Under 10th Amendment, States Rights, this case and others would never have been handled this way. In territorial days, then states rights days, this case would have been heard by a jury, decision made, would then go to appeals judges, to determine if any mistakes made in case by either side. If no mistakes, case goes back to original judge who heard the testimony, both sides, arguments, he sets the date for execution (shot by firing squad, hung, or electric chair) —- All done in reasonable time, tried by peers, and death is final.
        Now we have case heard by same jury (and in Colorado) all the steps to put pressure on Jurist to find excuse any excuse, to find the killer or criminal, did not mean it, had a tough childhood, and getting even with society, or anything. So we have had expense of all the experts, investigators, making trips and exploring all records, documents to find anything to throw against the wall to see how jury reacts to it. (God, the lawyers love this, drive big cars, live in big houses, and the treasury always has more money to take, if we can just find another something to appeal for) So finally case comes to close, and everyone will be angry at the one juror who is smart enough TO CUT OFF ANY APPEALS. GOOD FOR THEM. AT LEAST SOME COMMON SENSE.
        But now comes the Political folks to get their share. Governor can let the dude (?) go after a time, BECAUSE THEY HAVE BEEN PUNISHED ENOUGH. And they can also be released back on streets, if someone with political clout asks, or votes can be gained. And we have record of Governors and Presidents, who accepted money to release or pardon the bad guy-girl , or someone files an appeal, post bond, and they are released pending trial. So they disappear to Mexico, Europe, somewhere they cannot be extradited, BECAUSE USA HAS DEATH PENALTIES.
        How about it folks. We tax-payers who don’t even know these criminals or have heard their names before case started, are paying because Lawyers, Judges, Political folks, and the PC hand-wringers have taken away our rights. We have to buy the guns, ammo, and take chance of being called crazy or criminals, to defend ourselves from unknown criminals who are back on the streets. And we were not told when they were released. Just my rant for this Sunday Morning in Colorado. I know we need to get States Rights for all 50 states. and get the crappola crowd out of :Washington DC.

        1. And which crapolla crowd do you propose we get out of Washington DC? We can only guess.

          The good old days have come and gone Frank. Like ‘True Patriot’ says, “time to move on”!

          Funny. I’ve never felt threatened enough to carry a concealed weapon or keep a loaded gun in my home. I’ll leave that stuff to qualified police officers. JMO.

          1. You lived or are living a boring life. Wife and I lived in, traveled, camped in, or were tourists in 44 of the 50 states, where I drove my vehicles to park in highway rest areas where allowed, state and federal parks, and forests. Had 4 occasions through the years, where my weapon held up, in my right hand, where it could be seen, not waved around or threatening (just promising) and on all 4 occasions prevented problems for me, or my family. Closest I came to shooting, was at Quanah Texas , 2 AM in the morning, driving east in station wagon, with wife asleep beside me, and my 3 children asleep on mats in back of station wagon. If you are familiar with Highway 87, it is 2 lane, fairly wide, with barrow ditches on both sides.
            A car approached from rear at high speeds, and forced me off road, into that ditch, three times by making u-turns and coming back on return head-on. 3d time I went into ditch, I lifted my 38 out from under seat, and in rear view mirrow saw them make another u turn and come from rear.
            Was about 3-4 seconds from being even with my Chevy SW, when I intended to shoot pistol as fast as I could pull trigger, regardless. In that instant, car came into view, with all lights flashing , headlights, roof lights rotating with high beams, and that car overtaking let up gas pedal.
            When that car from east passed me at about 100 mph, I saw it was Texas Highway Patrol car. Don’t know where they were going, or for what, but their appearance kept me and who ever was in the car harassing me, from having a nasty incident that night. That was just after Thanksgiving in 1966, as I had been transferred from Colorado in July 1965, to Perrin AFB, Texas and was assigned to Field Training Detachment at Perrin, working on F102A Delta Daggar aircraft. Teaching flight line guys so they could pass their advancement tests and be promoted, and also on new equipment. Next year I gained Greeks and Turks, for a year to teach, along with our Air Force students.
            Very happy I did not have to shoot anyone that night, but no one endangers my family, without me taking them out.

          2. On the crappolo crowd, I will let you pick your own poison. I have my candidates, but others have different ones. Any who depart completely, will be a gain for good, common sense.

        2. You forgot about that part of the constitution that discusses the great writ, the writ of habeas corpus.

          1. Boy, oh boy. How the hell would that work in this case? I see no connection what so ever. Explain please, or are you just grabbing out something , thinking I would be impressed with 2 words. There was never any doubt that the law had the body, and they are legal officers, and Arapahoe County is a legally functioning County.

            What was illegal or even suspicious about case? Did you find that in a book, and not look it up? WOW.

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  2. See my rant short time earlier: If Colorado had States Rights, with our politicians all working for us, Holmes Case would go to appeals court for this region. If no mistakes made in trial by either side, case would come back to judge who heard the case, he would set date of execution, and it would be carried out. Not go to Governor for political reasons, nor the 3 from Arapahoe County on death row. They would long ago have become history, and serve as warning to others following their steps. ——-
    We have too many political, lawyers, and others involved in our justice system to have a justice system. We have a self perpetuating, open checkbook, on our county and state treasury, at the mercy of any lawyer, who can find any reason, to gin up another appeal. Even then, the perps mold in prison with hopes the Governor will release them. And we tax-payers pay for that, with families of victims and of the killers not having closure, with many dying in prison, if they don’t kill a guard or other prisoners. Even then, many are still there, unless in Florida, Texas, or Utah or other states that still execute. And those who kill in prison, may get relief by then being executed themselves.
    I believe Life matters, but no one race, or religions has options on that. No life is more important than any other life. and the day we were born, we have a day to die. I have never heard of anyone who got out of life on earth, still alive. And in my religion I accept that.

    1. Life matters! On that we agree. Beyond that I wouldn’t hold my breath.

      “Political lawyers”. Has an “activist judges” ring to it. Is that why we’ve managed to survive as a nation for 225 years under a Constitutional process argued before every court under the sun and the halls of congress by “political lawyers”.

      The Constitution allows for just such change to our justice system as time and circumstances come and go. And to think. The Constitution itself was conceived and written by more than a few “political lawyers”.

      Like I said Frank. Life matters and on that we agree.

      1. Yep. It sure does. By the House and Senate, initiating bills or amendments. Reaching agreement, through joint committee meetings, discussions, and voting (agreeing again) . Then go to President for signature, veto, or into law without his/her signature. Then going out to the 50 states, to be ratified as a change to Constitution or Bill of Rights, or the Amendments. If 60% approve during a 5 (?) year period, that becomes law of the land.
        Now note all the changes by Supreme court making law, oval office holder making law, his selected cabinet officers making law with executive orders or executive memorandums, all illegal on base because they cost money from our treasury with out the House initiating or approving it, and you begin to see my anger, frustration, and rage. You could say I have read Ezekiel in the Bible, so rage comes out of my eyes, ears, and nose. Also could be blood, if about to burst a blood vassal.
        Okay, Think about that. Don’t argue with me about it. It is my opinion. You can have your own, since 1st amendment is same for you.

        1. Anger and rage is not good for your health. When the blood starts coming out of your nose and ears you should probably see a doctor.

          That Zeke character sounds weird.

          1. Read the Bible. That is what those women and girly men didn’t so immediately thought of their physical problems. Funny how so many live their live by their sexuality, or lack of it.

          2. “Read the Biible”. Got it preacher! We know. Real men pack heat and piss in their pants. Have a good one.

          3. Lot of them did that while killing Germans and Japanese to protect our sorry rear ends. Dam shame what we have let our country sink to. Never believed so many USA folks could become girly people in 7 year period.

          4. That’s quite an experience. You are to be commended for your good deed.

            Speaking of “girly people”, I’m off to buy some pot. Cheers.

          1. Your comment is insulting to believe I did not know that, if we wanted throw this Constitution aside and write a new one, or new one that encompassed parts of old, with new parts. I knew that and have written before on that. You and I had this discussion before, of being of similar years and experiences. We don’t need to needle each other. What I described is to change existing amendments, or portions of original as written 1774-75-76, following the Boston Tea Party and British ships coming to punish colonists, and collect tea tax. 14th amendment definitely needs attention to remind folks it had portion to extend citizenship to Blacks and their descendant’s, and to Indians who have their own citizenship in their sovereign tribes. Not to every baby being born in the world, who then drags whole alien family in by relationship. That is prostitution of that amendment, and needs chopped off now, and withdraw all such claims from past 20 or more years. And that is what TRUMP is saying about illegal aliens in this country, who have never learned English, do not have USA documentation issued in their names. Stop living on someone else’ s SS number, and documents.
            Now lets let this subject drop until something else happens. Congress may even come back and do something spectacular in what time they have left this year, and term. Then I want to see some of them depart. All they have done is argue, and enrich themselves at our expense.

          2. The mechanism for amending or repealing amendments to the constitution is there. If you feel the law needs to be changed and the 14th amendment needs to be altered or repealed, the process is there. Go for it and good luck. Until then, the law — as they say — is the law.

          3. Is that not Trump said he would do? And if this imposter can use executive orders and memorandums to change laws, willy nilly, or make laws out of the thing he calls a brain, why not TRUMP? Could Supreme court say anything until someone files charges, and it moves through trial, appeal court, get 2 or 3 appeals courts to give conflicting opinions, and then, and only then could Supreme court drag non-existent words out the files or document, or clouds, and decide for or against. Is that not how it working now? What do you think we have been complaining about with those old women and girly man on the supremes (nine)?

          4. Not sure if you’re being sarcastic or satirical (or both here). Or maybe serious. All I said was that there’s a way to change the constitution and suggested you take it through your representatives in government. OK, gotta go now.

          5. Little of all that you wrote: Donald believes (as I do) (1) enforce our immigration laws. NO PATH to citizenship for anyone who breaks our laws. Come legally, or don’t come. ———-Hope that is clear. Inhumane – Are they not being inhumane to desert their children, family, leave them behind, and come here to live with someone’s ID, not their own. Next (2) Does it not strike you as strange, with all of Donald Trumps properties, employment of folks from all countries, of all races, religions, beliefs, and now that he is being accused of being Loud Mouth, Brash, out of touch, NO ONE HAS SHOWN ANY ILLEGAL ACTS, ACTIONS, OR COMMENTS BY OFFICIALS, POLITICIANS, TAX FOLKS, and strangest of all, not a single employee (present or past) had come forth to tell us how they got screwed, beat out of wages, are owed money, or other type of complaint? ———————
            Only complaints I am hearing and seeing, (and am getting very tired and upset with them) are those campaigning against him and complaining he does not know what he is talking about. WOW. They have been in State and Federal Government for years and years and years, and look at the shape it is in. Now if they knew how to fix it, why did they not do it on their dime? Have you or anyone seen Donald Trump on news complaining he wanted to do something, and those mean old people would not let him. MAN OF DECISIONS, GET THE DXX JOB DONE, AND MOVE ON. He seemed to find solutions, and fixes for problems, and he certainly has been successful. Tell me where I am off base?
            Challenge to anyone, though I will not argue with you. I have not seen it, and I have read about him for at least 10 or more years. Come to think about, longer than that. He divorced 3 women, and they have not complained. Their lawyers made stuff messy, but that Is par for them. They don’t know anything else. Anyway, Retiree, I was not picking on you. Just felt like ranting. I don’t lose 2 very good friends in a month, of years (1991 to now) and be cheerful about it.
            But overall, I am always serious. This is to dangerous to be a joke.

          6. I thought this conversation was about the 14th Amendment to the Constitution. And all this in the comments section of an article about the Holmes Jury. For what it’s worth, I think Trump would be an unmitigated disaster as President. But he’ll never be elected, so it’s not worth talking about even when talking about an article (see above) that is so far afield of where all this started. Have a great evening, Frank.

          7. You need to do some research, and you told me not long ago that you do. So go back to Ivana Trump and the before the divorce. Other than the mess the lawyers stirred, up find any incident ever reported in magazines, books, articles, television, radio of any complaints about Donald Trump sexual, criminal, police, school records, anything else you want to check , and tell me and others what you find. Other than smart remarks about his hair style, or way he talks, and I don’t even remember any of his attacking anyone until this campaign when Meghan Kelley decided to ask “gotcha questions” of all the GOP. Any idea why she got so shrill on all at that point. She has been shrill and demanding on Fox News for about a year, but I think she is either full of herself, competing with Bill O’Reilley, or she is having a hormonal problem at mid-life, and 3 kids. Happens to most women, and even some girly men.
            But no ex-employees complaining, no city officials, no state officials, and now only complaints from those who don’t have a clue of how to fix problems, jumping his case, because he makes them look like fools, by their own words. If they knew, why did they not fix things themselves?
            And just today I read of his limo breaking outside NYC, in rural area. Elderly couple stopped and offered assistance. He thanked them, then later paid off their mortgage. He did not brag about it, or tell it himself. People like him help others, and don’t make a big deal out of it.
            AS I wrote to others in past month on other websites. He probably will have enough votes from his own employee, though those overseas won’t legally be able to vote for him. Won’t stop all those overseas, voting for Hillary though, when Bill gives them the ballots. You know from all those donators to Bill and Hillary, overseas.

  3. There has been much said by prosecutors in recent days about the “one holdout juror” in the Holmes case derailing their quest for a death sentence and their perception of the will of the people. But this is inaccurate. According to Juror 17 there were two others that were not convinced that the death penalty was appropriate. That equals three jurors out of 12 who had not been convinced. But that is only half the story. In Colorado jurors who do not believe in the death penalty are not allowed to sit as jurors. Polls indicate over 1/3 of Colorado voters do not believe in the death penalty. If the jury had been a fair cross section of Colorado an additional 4 jurors would have voted for life. This “death qualification” process means certain groups who historically are more opposed to capital punishment than the general populace, such as Catholics, Jews, African Americans, Hispanics and Democrats, are underrepresented in capital juries. The “death qualification” process thus provides a stacked deck in favor of the prosecution. So when the prosecution can’t unanimously convince the stacked jury that death is appropriate we must respect the verdict and realize that in reality Colorado is far from unanimous as a society in the taking of human life by our government.

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