Colorado theater gunman's sentencing caps grueling trial

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Colorado Theater Shooter James Holmes Formally Sentenced To Life In Prison

CENTENNIAL, Colo. (AP) -- Belittled by the judge and jeered by spectators, James Holmes was sent to prison for the rest of his life Wednesday, while the survivors of his murderous attack on a Colorado movie theater wondered aloud how they would spend the rest of their days.

Judge Carlos A. Samour sentenced Holmes to the maximum - 12 consecutive life terms without parole plus 3,318 years - then made a final, contemptuous order: "Sheriff, get the defendant out of my courtroom, please."

READ MORE: Judge set to sentence Colorado theater shooter to life

Samour described Holmes as an angry quitter who gave up on life and turned his hatred into murder and mayhem against innocent strangers.

Survivors and victims' family members in the gallery cheered, and someone shouted "Loser!" as deputies took Holmes away.

The long, grueling trial came to its formal conclusion three years and 37 days after Holmes murdered 12 people and tried to kill 70 more during a midnight showing of the Batman movie "The Dark Knight Rises" in the Denver suburb of Aurora.

Samour, who was scrupulously respectful toward Holmes throughout the trial, launched into a withering condemnation of him as someone who knew right from wrong but "robbed the world of all the good these victims would have accomplished" and irreparably damaged the lives of hundreds more.

More photos of Holmes and the scene of the crime from 2012:

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James Holmes 'Dark Knight' Colo. theater shooting trial, Aurora, Colorado
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Colorado theater gunman's sentencing caps grueling trial
James Holmes appears in court for the sentencing phase in his trial, Monday, Aug. 24, 2015, at Arapahoe County District Court in Centennial, Colo. Victims and their families were given the opportunity to speak about the shooting and its effects on their lives. Holmes was convicted Aug. 7 of murdering 12 people when he opened fire on a crowded movie theater in 2012. (RJ Sangosti/The Denver Post via AP, Pool)
James Holmes, right, with defense attorney Katherine Spengler, appears in court for the sentencing phase in his trial, Monday, Aug. 24, 2015, at Arapahoe County District Court in Centennial, Colo. Victims and their families were given the opportunity to speak about the shooting and its effects on their lives. Holmes was convicted Aug. 7 of murdering 12 people when he opened fire on a crowded movie theater in 2012. (RJ Sangosti/The Denver Post via AP, Pool)
In an image made from video, Colorado theater shooter James Holmes, far left, sits at the defense table during a statement reading by Kathleen Pourciau, far right, the mother of surviving theater shooting victim Bonnie Kate Pourciau-Zoghbi, during the final sentencing phase of the Holmes trial in Centennial, Colo., Monday, Aug. 24, 2015. Holmes was convicted Aug. 7 of murdering 12 people when he opened fire on a crowded movie theater in 2012. (Colorado Judicial Department via AP, Pool)
Judge Carlos A. Samour Jr. sits on the bench during the sentencing phase in the trial of James Holmes, at Arapahoe County District Court in Centennial, Colo., Monday, Aug. 24, 2015. Victims and their families were given the opportunity to speak about the shooting and its effects on their lives. Holmes was convicted Aug. 7 of murdering 12 people when he opened fire on a crowded movie theater in 2012. (RJ Sangosti/The Denver Post via AP, Pool)
Lasamoa Cross, left, wipes tears from her face as she leaves the Arapahoe County Courthouse with Theresa Hoover, the mother of her boyfriend, Alexander J. Boik, who was killed in the theatre massacre, Friday, Aug. 7, 2015, in Centennial, Colo. James Holmes will be sentenced to life in prison without parole after a jury failed to agree on whether he should get the death penalty. (AP Photo/David Zalubowski)
Terry Sullivan, right, whose son Alex was killed on his birthday in the 2012 Aurora movie theatre attack, embraces Lonnie Phillips, whose daughter Jessica Ghawi was also killed, after a jury failed to agree on whether theater shooter James Holmes should get the death penalty Friday, Aug. 7, 2015, in Centennial, Colo. Holmes will be sentenced to life in prison without parole. (AP Photo/Brennan Linsley)
Tom Sullivan, right, who lost his son in the movie theater shooting in Aurora, Colo., in July 2012, heads into the Arapahoe County Courthouse to hear the verdict reached in the penalty phase of the trial of convicted shooter James Holmes Friday, Aug. 7, 2015, in Centennial, Colo. Jurors have reached a decision on whether to sentence Holmes to life in prison or the death penalty. (AP Photo/David Zalubowski)
Josh Nowlan, who was shot during the massacre at a movie theater in Aurora, Colo., in July 2012, is hugged by an unidentified woman as they head into the Arapahoe County Courthouse to hear the verdict reached in the penalty phase of the trial of convicted shooter James Holmes Friday, Aug. 7, 2015, in Centennial, Colo. Jurors have reached a decision on whether to sentence Holmes to life in prison or the death penalty. (AP Photo/David Zalubowski)
Ian Sullivan, who lost his 6-year-old daughter in the massacre at a theater in Aurora, Colo., heads into the Arapahoe County Courthouse to hear the verdict reached in the penalty phase of the trial of convicted shooter James Holmes Friday, Aug. 7, 2015, in Centennial, Colo. Jurors have reached a decision on whether to sentence Holmes to life in prison or the death penalty. (AP Photo/David Zalubowski)
Terry Sullivan, second from left, whose son Alex was killed on his birthday in the 2012 Aurora movie theatre attack, embraces Bryan Beard, Alex's best friend, as Alex's father Tom looks on at right, after a jury failed to agree on whether theater shooter James Holmes should get the death penalty Friday, Aug. 7, 2015, in Centennial, Colo. Holmes will be sentenced to life in prison without parole. (AP Photo/Brennan Linsley)
In this image taken from video, accused Colorado theater shooter James Holmes, on the far left, listens to testimony during his trial, in Centennial, Colo., Thursday, June 25, 2015. Holmes arrived at court minus his normal full beard. (Colorado Judicial Department via AP, Pool)
Defendant James Holmes appears in a video presented to a darkened courtroom in Centennial, Colo., Thursday, June 4, 2015. Holmes, also seated at defense table below screen, spoke in the video to a psychiatrist who evaluated him for the trial on charges that he killed 12 people and wounded 70 others during the midnight premiere of a Batman film. (Colorado Judicial Department via AP, Pool)
In this image taken from video, Colorado movie theater shooter James Holmes, second from left, stands along with defense and prosecution teams, as the jury exits the courtroom for a break in the Holmes trial, in Centennial, Colo., Friday, June 19, 2015. The prosecution, led by District Attorney George Brauchler, second from left, rested its case Friday. (Colorado Judicial Department via AP, Pool)
FILE - This Jan. 15, 2015, file photo shows a view of the jury box, right, inside Courtroom 201, where jury selection in the trial of Aurora movie theater shootings defendant James Holmes was set to begin at the Arapahoe County District Court in Centennial, Colo. Three jurors in the Colorado theater shooting trial were dismissed Tuesday, June 9, 2015, amid concern they had been exposed to media coverage of the case and were discussing it among themselves. (AP Photo/Brennan Linsley, Pool, File)
File - In this April 27, 2015, file sketch by courtroom artist Jeff Kandyba, prosecutor George Brauchler makes a point during the opening day of the trial for Aurora, Colo., theatre shooting suspect James Holmes, in Centennial, Colo. Holmes is charged with killing 12 people and wounding 70 more in a July 2012 attack on a suburban Denver movie theater. His attorneys argue he suffers from schizophrenia and was in the grips of a psychotic episode when he opened fire on the packed auditorium during a midnight premier of a Batman movie. Experts say prosecutors are using a an approach to craft a memorable narrative that will hold jurors’ attention as the trial continues over more than four months, with scores of witnesses taking the stand.(AP Photo/Jeff Kandyba, file) KCNC-TV, KMGH-TV, KDVR-TV AND KUSA-TV OUT.
In this Monday, April 27, 2015 sketch by courtroom artist Jeff Kandyba, Aurora theater shooting defendant James Holmes, center left, and defense attorney Daniel King sit in court at the Arapahoe County Justice Center on the first day of Holmes' trial, in Centennial, Colo. Holmes acknowledges killing 12 people and wounding 70 more inside a packed movie theater in July 2012, but has pleaded not guilty by reason of insanity. (AP Photo/Jeff Kandyba)
In this Monday, April 27, 2015, sketch by courtroom artist Jeff Kandyba, Caleb Medley, who was shot in the head during the massacre at the theatre in Aurora, Colo., is shown during the opening day of the trial for Aurora, Colo., theatre shooting suspect James Holmes in Centennial, Colo. The trial will determine if Holmes will be executed, spend his life in prison or be committed to an institution as criminally insane. (AP Photo/David Zalubowski)
In this Monday, April 27, 2015, sketch by courtroom artist Jeff Kandyba, Judge Carlos A. Samour, Jr., makes a point during the opening day of the trial for Aurora, Colo., theatre shooting suspect James Holmes Monday, April 27, 2015, in Centennial, Colo. The trial will determine if Holmes will be executed, spend his life in prison or be committed to an institution as criminally insane. (AP Photo/Jeff Kandyba)
In this Monday, April 27, 2015 sketch by courtroom artist Jeff Kandyba, public defender Daniel King makes a point during the opening day of the trial for Aurora, Colo., theatre shooting suspect James Holmes Monday, April 27, 2015, in Centennial, Colo. The trial will determine if Holmes will be executed, spend his life in prison or be committed to an institution as criminally insane. (AP Photo/Jeff Kandyba)
In this Monday, April 27, 2015 sketch by courtroom artist Jeff Kandyba, Aurora theater shooting defendant James Holmes is depicted as he sits in court at the Arapahoe County Justice Center on the first day of the Holmes trial, in Centennial, Colo. As the trial begins, the question isn't whether Holmes killed 12 people and wounded 70, but whether he was sane at the time of the killings. (AP Photo/Jeff Kandyba)
Aurora, Colo. Fire Department Lt. Bernd Hoefler, left, talks to a Arapahoe County Sheriff's Deputy after testifying during the third day in the trial of James Holmes, Wednesday, April 29, 2015, in Centennial, Colo. Holmes is charged with multiple counts of murder and attempted murder for a 2012 attack that killed 12 people and injured 70 in a movie theater. (AP Photo/David Zalubowski)
File - In this April 27, 2015 file photo, Joshua Nowlan, right, one of the victims in the massacre at the Aurora, Colo., theatre, is escorted from court by a law enforcement officer on the opening day of the trial for theatre shooting suspect James Holmes, in Centennial, Colo. The trial will determine if Holmes will be executed, spend his life in prison or be committed to an institution as criminally insane. (AP Photo/David Zalubowski, file)
FILE - In this Jan. 7, 2013 file photo, Aurora Police Officer Justin Grizzle leaves court after testifying at a preliminary hearing for Aurora theater shooter James Holmes at the courthouse in Centennial, Colo. In testimony last week, Grizzle told of carrying victims Caleb Medley in the back of his patrol car and begging him not to die as he sped to a hospital. (AP Photo/Ed Andrieski, File)
Tom Sullivan, front, who lost his 27-year-old son Alex in the massacre at a movie theater in Aurora, Colo., leaves the courthouse after the second day in the death penalty trial of theater shooter James Holmes Tuesday, April 28, 2015, in Centennial, Colo. Witnesses were called to the stand to recall the night of the incident, in which 12 people died and 70 others were injured. (AP Photo/David Zalubowski)
Marcus Weaver, left, a victim of the 2012 shooting at an Aurora, Colo., movie theater, is embraced after Weaver testified during the third day in the trial of James Holmes, Wednesday, April 29, 2015, in Centennial, Colo. Holmes is charged with multiple counts of murder and attempted murder in an attack that killed 12 people and injured 70. (AP Photo/David Zalubowski)
Law enforcement officers keep watch from the roof of the Arapahoe County Justice Center on the second day of the trial of Aurora movie theater massacre defendant James Holmes, in Centennial, Colo., Tuesday, April 28, 2015. The trial will determine if Holmes will be executed, spend his life in prison or be committed to an institution. (AP Photo/Brennan Linsley)
Colorado theater shooter James Holmes, left rear in light-colored shirt, watches during testimony by witness Derick Spruel, upper right, on the second day of his trial in Centennial, Colo., Monday, April 27, 2015. Standing at left is prosecutor Lisa Teesch-Maguire. (Colorado Judicial Department via AP, Pool)
Araphaoe County, colo., Sheriffs Department deputies, at back, escort attendees out of the courthouse at the conclusion of the opening day of the trial for Aurora, Colo., theatre shooting suspect James Holmes Monday, April 27, 2015, in Centennial, Colo. The trial will determine if Holmes will be executed, spend his life in prison or be committed to an institution as criminally insane. (AP Photo/David Zalubowski)
Surrounded by television photographers and reporters, Marcus Weaver, front, a victim of the shooting massacre at an Aurora, Colo., theatre, talks at the conclusion of the opening day of the trial for theatre shooting suspect James Holmes Monday, April 27, 2015, in Centennial, Colo. The trial will determine if Holmes will be executed, spend his life in prison or be committed to an institution as criminally insane. (AP Photo/David Zalubowski)
Television journalists are directed by an official to return to a nearby area reserved for media, outside the Arapahoe County Justice Center, on the first day of the trial of James Holmes, in Centennial, Colo., Monday, April 27, 2015. Holmes acknowledges killing 12 people and wounding 70 more inside a packed movie theater on July 20, 2012, but has pleaded not guilty by reason of insanity. (AP Photo/Brennan Linsley)
People enter the Arapahoe County Justice Center on the first day of the trial of defendant James Holmes, in Centennial, Colo., Monday, April 27, 2015. Holmes acknowledges killing 12 people and wounding 70 more inside a packed movie theater on July 20, 2012, but has pleaded not guilty by reason of insanity. (AP Photo/Brennan Linsley)
Television satellite trucks and production tents are positioned in the parking lot of the Arapahoe County Justice Center, on the first day of the trial of James Holmes, in Centennial, Colo., Monday, April 27, 2015. Holmes acknowledges killing 12 people and wounding 70 more inside a packed movie theater on July 20, 2012, but has pleaded not guilty by reason of insanity. (AP Photo/Brennan Linsley)
Lonnie and Sandy Phillips, whose daughter Jessica Ghawi was killed in the 2012 Aurora, Colo., movie theatre shooting, prepare to enter the Arapahoe County Justice Center, on the first day of the trial of defendant James Holmes, in Centennial, Colo., Monday, April 27, 2015. Holmes acknowledges killing 12 people and wounding 70 more inside the packed theater, but has pleaded not guilty by reason of insanity. (AP Photo/Brennan Linsley)
CENTENNIAL, CO - APRIL 27: Family members of Aurora Theater shooting victim Veronica Moser walk into the Arapahoe County Justice Center as opening arguments for the trial of Aurora Theater Shooting defendant James Holmes opened at the courthouse April 27, 2015 in Centennial, Colorado. Holmes faces multiple murder charges stemming from a mass shooting in July 2012 theater shooting that killed 12 people and wounded dozens of others. (Photo by Marc Piscotty/Getty Images)
A law enforcement officer adjusts a barrier for media in front of the Arapahoe County District Court, on the first day of the trial of the Aurora movie theater shootings defendant James Holmes, in Centennial, Colo., Monday April 27, 2015. As the trial begins, the question isn't whether Holmes killed 12 people and wounded 70, but whether he was sane at the time of the killings. (AP Photo/Brennan Linsley)
CENTENNIAL, CO - APRIL 27: Members of the media film people walking into the Arapahoe County Justice Center as opening arguments for the trial of Aurora Theater Shooting defendant James Holmes opened at the courthouse April 27, 2015 in Centennial, Colorado. Holmes faces multiple murder charges stemming from a mass shooting in July 2012 theater shooting that killed 12 people and wounded dozens of others. (Photo by Marc Piscotty/Getty Images)
Judge Carlos A. Samour Jr., top right, presides over the opening of the trial of Colorado theater shooter James Holmes, far left, in Centennial, Colo., Monday, April 27, 2015. The trial will determine if he'll be executed, spend his life in prison, or be committed to an institution as criminally insane. (Colorado Judicial Department via AP, Pool)
Colorado theater shooter James Holmes, far left, sits at the defense table at the opening of his trial in Centennial, Colo., Monday, April 27, 2015. The trial will determine if he'll be executed, spend his life in prison, or be committed to an institution as criminally insane. (Colorado Judicial Department via AP, Pool)
CENTENNIAL, CO - APRIL 27: Producers at Denver Post TV listen and take notes from the courtroom live feed of proceedings as opening arguments for the trial of Aurora Theater Shooting defendant James Holmes opened at the Arapahoe County Justice Center April 27, 2015 in Centennial, Colorado. Holmes faces multiple murder charges stemming from a mass shooting in July 2012 theater shooting that killed 12 people and wounded dozens of others. Holmes is seated at the very far left of the television screen. (Photo by Marc Piscotty/Getty Images)
Surrounded by television photographers and reporters, Marcus Weaver, front, a victim of the shooting massacre at an Aurora, Colo., theatre, talks at the conclusion of the opening day of the trial for theatre shooting suspect James Holmes Monday, April 27, 2015, in Centennial, Colo. The trial will determine if Holmes will be executed, spend his life in prison or be committed to an institution as criminally insane. (AP Photo/David Zalubowski)
Marcus Weaver, center back, who was shot in the massacre at the theatre in Aurora, Colo., is flanked by an unidentified man while leaving the Arapahoe County, Colo., courthouse at the conclusion of the opening day of the trial for theatre shooting suspect James Holmes Monday, April 27, 2015, in Centennial, Colo. The trial will determine if Holmes will be executed, spend his life in prison or be committed to an institution as criminally insane. (AP Photo/David Zalubowski)
Marcus Weaver, front right, who was wounded in the Aurora, Colo., theatre shooting, emerges at the conclusion of the opening day of the trial for theatre shooting suspect James Holmes, Monday, April 27, 2015, in Centennial, Colo. The trial will determine if Holmes will be executed, spend his life in prison or be committed to an institution as criminally insane. (AP Photo/David Zalubowski)
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"It is almost impossible to comprehend how a human being is capable of such acts," Samour said.

Outside the courthouse, prosecutors and victims broke into smiles and even cracked a few jokes, their relief obvious. But they also wondered what their futures would hold without the daily routine of the trial and the comfort they found in each other's presence.

"I'm relieved that it's over, but I don't think it will ever be over, you know?" said Rena Medek, whose daughter Micayla was among those killed. "I always have my daughter to think about."

Kathleen Larimer only recently has been able to accept that her son, John, was murdered in the attack. She said the trial has become her life and she doesn't know what moving forward will be like.

"Now that this is over, I have to go home and live with all that emptiness, and yet somehow be happy with life going on," she said.

"The trial is over, and that thing will never see the light of day again," said Caren Teves, whose son, Alex, was killed.

Samour was required to give Holmes life without parole, rather than the death penalty, after a split jury decided the sentence earlier this month. Prosecutors have said 11 jurors favored death and one voted for life without parole. Under Colorado law, jurors must be unanimous to impose the death penalty.

The 3,318 additional years were for Holmes' convictions for attempted murder and an explosives count.

Colorado court system spokesman Rob McCallum could not say whether the sentence was a record for the state. He said it was the longest he was aware of.

Before sentencing Holmes, Samour tried to reassure victims who were upset at the lack of a death penalty that Holmes' punishment would still be severe.

The judge also dismissed complaints that the trial was a waste of time, noting it gave family members and survivors an opportunity to tell the world about their ordeal. 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. Prosecutors rejected the offer.

As they departed the courtroom for the last time, survivors and relatives hugged and thanked prosecutors, law enforcement officers and a handful of jurors who were in the courtroom to observe. Some wiped away tears.

Victim advocates then collected dozens of colorful tissue boxes scattered about the courtroom floor and loaded them into a brown box. Therapy dogs that comforted witnesses were led out of the courthouse by handlers, one of whom patted the dog and whispered, "We're done."

Colorado prisons 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 wind 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.

The Arapahoe County Sheriff's Office refused to discuss Holmes or say whether he had left the jail, citing security concerns.

Holmes moved from California to Colorado in 2011 and entered a prestigious postgraduate neuroscience program at the University of Colorado in 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 shooting, hoping to divert first responders from the Aurora theater. The homemade devices didn't go off.

He surrendered meekly outside the theater after the July 20, 2012, attack and eventually pleaded not guilty by reason of insanity. Last month, the jury rejected that plea, finding Holmes knew right from wrong when he slipped into the theater dressed head-to-toe in body armor and started shooting.

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

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

An attorney for Holmes' parents did not immediately respond to a call seeking comment Wednesday. Holmes' mother, Arlene, was the last to testify during his emotional sentencing hearing, saying her son feels remorse but his mental illness and medications make it hard for him to express it.

"We are very sorry this tragedy happened and sorry everyone has suffered so much," she testified.

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Associated Press writers Nicholas Riccardi and Dan Elliott in Denver contributed to this report.

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