The judge overseeing the Colorado theater shootings case says jurors will have up to three separate deliberations on whether defendant James Holmes should be executed if they convict him of murder.

In a ruling Friday, the judge said he plans to have the jury work through the requirements of Colorado's death penalty law step by step before moving to the final question of whether Holmes should live or die.

The process could end at any step with a life sentence unless prosecutors convince jurors that the requirements for execution have been met.

Holmes pleaded not guilty by reason of insanity to charges of killing 12 people and injuring 70 in the 2012 attack on a suburban Denver movie theater. Prosecutors are seeking the death penalty.

His trial is scheduled for October.