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Spree killer James Holmes sentenced to life

Spree killer James Holmes sentenced to life

Colorado cinema gunman James Holmes has been formally sentenced to life in prison without parole for the 2012 attack which left 12 people dead and 70 others hurt.

Holmes' carefully planned and merciless attack was carried out on hundreds of defenceless moviegoers who were watching a midnight Batman film premiere in Aurora.

Judge Carlos A Samour Jr had no other sentencing option after a jury earlier this month did not unanimously agree that Holmes should receive the death penalty.

The judge issued his sentence after two days of testimony from survivors, including first responders to the attack on July 20 2012.

The 27-year-old was convicted of first-degree murder and 140 counts of attempted first degree murder, as well as an explosives charge.

Colorado prison officials will determine where Holmes will be incarcerated after an evaluation that includes his mental health.

Holmes, who has been diagnosed with varying forms of schizophrenia, could end up in the corrections department's mental hospital, the 250-bed San Carlos Correctional Facility in Pueblo. He also could be transferred to an out-of-state prison.

Holmes moved from California to Colorado in 2011 and entered a prestigious postgraduate neuroscience program at the University of Colorado, Denver, but he dropped out after a year.

By that time, he was well into planning the attack and stockpiling ammunition. He rigged his apartment to explode on the night of the attack, hoping to divert first responders from the Aurora theatre. The home-made devices failed to go off.

In July, the jury rejected Holmes' insanity plea, finding he knew right from wrong. But it could not unanimously agree on the death penalty, meaning Holmes automatically was sentenced to life in prison.

Prosecutors subsequently said one juror refused to sentence Holmes to death, apparently swayed by defence arguments that he did not deserve execution because he suffers from mental illness.

Holmes' state-appointed attorneys blamed the massacre on his schizophrenia and psychotic delusions. They said Holmes had been obsessed with the idea of mass killing since childhood, and he pursued neuroscience in an effort to find out what was wrong with his brain.

Prosecutors pointed both to Holmes' elaborate planning for the attack and his refusal to divulge to anyone - family, friends, psychiatrists - that he was thinking, and planning, murder.

Holmes stockpiled guns and ammunition and mapped out the Aurora theatre complex to determine which auditorium would allow for the most casualties. He even calculated police response times.