The life sentence delivered by a divided jury to Colorado theater shooter James Holmes for murdering 12 defenseless moviegoers averts an uncertain path to execution in a state that has put only one man to death in nearly a half-century.

Colorado rarely carries out capital punishments. Only one man in the state has been put to death since 1967.

Still, many observers figured this notorious mass-murder would be the exception that proved the rule. Prosecutors refused a pre-trial plea deal that would have kept him behind bars for life, calling Holmes the personification of evil and saying that death was the only appropriate response.

The verdict means Holmes will remain behind bars forever, averting an appeals process that would have taken decades of public hearings and millions of taxpayer dollars to resolve.