In a surprising announcement, James Holmes was sentenced to life in prison without parole on Friday because one juror refused to send him to death. Colorado theater shooter James Holmes’ life was spared when the jury failed to reach a unanimous decision. The state of Colorado requires a unanimous decision for a death sentence, so it only took one holdout to spare Holmes’ life.
Most of the jurors on the case have declined interviews, but one juror came forward to speak about the “life-changing experience” on the condition that she remain anonymous. According to juror 17, nine of the jurors were strongly in favor of sentencing Holmes to death. Two jurors were on the fence, and one was staunchly opposed. It took the jurors less than seven hours to come to a decision regarding James Holmes’ sentence. Juror 17 said that they made every effort to come to a unanimous decision. One of the jurors requested another viewing of a piece of evidence, a gory 45-minute crime scene video, possibly in an attempt to sway the dissenter. When it became clear she wasn’t going to budge, the jurors ended deliberations.
“We had gone over several times how firmly we stood in our position, so we, at that point, decided to end the deliberations because we were firmly entrenched in our positions for the most part,” she said.
It’s unclear why the juror decided to spare Holmes’ life. According to juror 17, she didn’t give a reason.
“She felt that life [in prison] was appropriate and she would not be swayed. She just said she couldn’t do it,” said juror 17.
She suspects that the dissenting juror didn’t want to sentence Holmes to death because of the possibility he suffers from mental illness, despite the fact that his insanity plea was overturned. “There was no other concern,” said juror 17.
Many people were shocked by Holmes’ sentence, including the families of the victims. Robert Sullivan, the grandfather of Veronica Moser-Sullivan, a six-year-old girl who was killed when Holmes opened fire in the theater, said the sentence makes the family’s “gaping wound even worse.”
“The thought that this monster gets to have visitation with his parents and gets to receive mail and pictures… is hard to accept,” Sullivan said.
Watching the survivors and families of Holmes’ victims react to the sentencing was “definitely painful,” said juror 17.
“They will suffer for the rest of their lives, those that are living. And the families of those that are deceased will be suffering also, forever,” she told Today.
James Holmes was arrested outside the Century 16 Aurora Theater on July 20, 2012, after he opened fire during the premiere of Dark Knight Rises. Twelve people were killed and at least 70 were wounded in the shooting. James Holmes will be formally sentenced at a later hearing, where both Holmes and the families of the victims will have the opportunity to address Judge Carlos Samour, Jr.
Watch Today‘s interview with juror 17 below
[Image via Handout/Getty Images]