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Jury in Colorado theater killer’s sentencing reaches verdict in 2nd phase

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James Holmes

UPDATE:  Holmes jury declines to rule out death penalty in Colorado theater shooting trial

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(CNN) — Jurors have reached a decision in the second phase of sentencing for James Holmes, who shot and killed 12 people and injured scores more in 2012 in a Colorado movie theater.

Under Colorado law, the jury can move death penalty proceedings forward to a third phase, or end the death penalty deliberations and sentence Holmes to life in prison without parole.

The jury’s decision will be read at 12:30 p.m. MT (2:30 p.m. ET).

Holmes was convicted of 24 counts of murder in the first degree — two for each victim in July.

Jurors began deliberating Thursday on the second phase of how to proceed with sentencing.

Prosecutors had argued that the jury should continue to death penalty proceedings which would be a final, third phase under Colorado law. Holmes’ attorneys urged the jury to give Holmes a life sentence and end the months-long trial.

His attorneys have said that his schizophrenia mitigated the capital crimes for which he was convicted.

Holmes had pleaded not guilty by reason of insanity and when the jury declared his guilt he showed no reaction.

By virtue of his insanity plea, Holmes never denied he was responsible for the slayings.

The lawyers’ arguments came midway through a sentencing hearing that asks the jury to make a milestone decision about how Holmes killed 12 people and wounded 70 more in a movie theater massacre: Did the mitigating factors outweigh the aggravating factors beyond a reasonable doubt?

Three dozen witnesses have testified during this sentencing phase, including James Holmes’ parents and sister.

Holmes, 27, is a former neuroscience doctoral student.