James Holmes: Will Aurora shooter face death penalty?

Accused Aurora movie theater shooting suspect James Holmes
Accused Aurora movie theater shooting suspect James Holmes

against the former graduate student for the “Dark Knight” shooting rampage that killed 12 moviegoers.

It is widely expected that Arapahoe County District Attorney George Brauchler will attempt to win a death sentence against the 25-year-old California native.

Brauchler already has announced he has a death penalty lawyer on the prosecution team and he rejected a defense offer to let Holmes plead guilty and serve a life sentence if capital punishment is taken off the table.

Holmes is accused of opening fire inside a suburban Denver theater during a screening of the Batman movie “The Dark Knight Rises” last July, in one of the deadliest outbursts of gun violence in the United States in recent years.

Holmes is charged with multiple counts of murder and attempted murder for the shooting massacre that also wounded 58 moviegoers. Another dozen people suffered non-gunshot injuries as they fled the Aurora, Colorado, cinema.

Arapahoe County District Judge William Sylvester entered a not guilty plea for Holmes last month, but said he would consider allowing that to be changed to not guilty by reason of insanity.

Last week, public defenders said in a court filing that Holmes was willing to plead guilty and serve a life sentence without the possibility of parole if prosecutors would not try to execute their client.

While Holmes’ attorneys said they are prepared to mount an insanity defense, they wrote in the filing that “Mr. Holmes is currently willing to resolve the case to bring the proceedings to a speedy and definite conclusion for all involved.”

Brauchler fired back in a written response, calling the move by the defense improper at this stage of the case and “that it was filed for the intended purpose of generating the predictable pretrial publicity.”

“The only conclusion that an objective reader would reach … is that the defendant knows that he is guilty, the defense attorneys know he is guilty and that both of them know that he was not criminally insane,” Brauchler wrote.

In court pleadings, public defenders Daniel King and Tamara Brady have said Holmes has been hospitalized twice since his arrest, once for “potential self-inflicted injuries.”

At one point, jailers determined Holmes was a danger to himself and in “immediate need of a psychiatric evaluation.” He was transported by ambulance to a Denver psychiatric ward “where he was held for several days, frequently in restraints,” his lawyers wrote.

Also at issue at Monday’s hearing is whether a Fox News reporter will be compelled to testify about confidential sources she used in a story that said a notebook Holmes sent to a psychiatrist detailed his plans to commit mass murder.

Sylvester agreed to hear arguments from lawyers for New York-based reporter Jana Winter, whose story violated a gag order he had imposed in the case.



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