Prosecutors in US seek death penalty for James Holmes in 'Batman' cinema attack that left 12 dead

 

For James Holmes, “justice is death,” prosecutors said yesterday in announcing they will seek his execution if he is convicted in the Colorado movie theater attack that killed 12 people.

The decision — disclosed in court just days after prosecutors publicly rejected Holmes' offer to plead guilty if they took the death penalty off the table — elevated the already sensational case to a new level and could cause it to drag on for years.

"It's my determination and my intention that in this case, for James Eagan Holmes, justice is death," District Attorney George Brauchler said, adding that he had discussed the case with 60 people who lost relatives in the July 20 shooting rampage by a gunman in a gas mask and body armor during a midnight showing of the latest Batman movie.

There was no audible reaction from the 25-year-old former neuroscience graduate student, who sat with his back to reporters, or from victims' families in the courtroom. Holmes' parents sat side by side in the gallery, clutching hands with fingers intertwined.

The decision had been widely predicted by legal analysts.

Within minutes of it becoming official, the trial was pushed back from August to next February and Judge William B. Sylvester removed himself from the case, saying that now that the charges carry the death penalty they will take years to resolve and he does not have the time to devote to such a drawn-out matter.

Despite the potential for more delays, some of those who lost loved ones were happy with prosecutors' decision.

"I had a huge adrenaline rush," said Bryan Beard, whose best friend Alex Sullivan was killed in the attack. "I love the choice. I love it, I love it." He added: "I hope I'm in the room when he dies."

But the prospect of a longer legal battle troubled others such as Pierce O'Farrill, who was shot three times.

"It could be 10 or 15 years before he's executed. I would be in my 40s and I'm planning to have a family, and the thought of having to look back and reliving everything at that point in my life, it would be difficult," he said.

Legal observers said Holmes' lawyers publicly offered a guilty plea in what may have been a bid to gain support among victims' families for a deal that would spare them a painful trial and lengthy appeals.

The prosecution and the defence could still reach a deal before the case goes to trial.

Holmes' lawyers have indicated in court papers that they may instead pursue a defence of not guilty by reason of insanity. But that carries great risk: Prosecutors could argue that Holmes methodically planned his attack, casing the theatre, stockpiling weapons and booby-trapping his apartment with explosives.

The judge newly assigned to the case, Carlos Samour Jr., warned defence lawyers that if they want to change Holmes' plea, the longer they wait the harder it will be to convince him to accept it.

If Holmes is found not guilty by reason of insanity, he will be sent to the state mental hospital, then returned to prison after treatment.

Colorado has three people on death row but has executed just one person over the past 45 years, in 1997.

Samour is also considering whether a New York-based Fox News reporter should have to testify about how she obtained confidential information about Holmes.

Jana Winter cited anonymous law enforcement officials in reporting that Holmes had sent a psychiatrist a notebook of drawings that foreshadowed the attack. Holmes' lawyers want to know who told Winter about the notebook, arguing that that person violated a gag order.

In the latest revelation in that case, Aurora Sgt. Matthew Fyles testified that a sticky note with a drawing was in the package sent to Dr. Lynne Fenton. Authorities previously did not confirm any drawings were inside but Winter's lawyer was prevented from asking questions about it because prosecutors said it wasn't relevant. Winter didn't mention a sticky note in her report.

The massacre helped lead to last month's passage of new gun control measures in Colorado, including a ban on the sort of high-capacity magazines that Holmes allegedly used to spray the theatre with dozens of bullets in a matter of seconds. Seventy people were injured in the attack.

President Barack Obama was scheduled to visit Denver on Wednesday to highlight the legislation as part of his push for more gun control following a school massacre in Connecticut in December.

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
News
peoplePair enliven the Emirates bore-draw
Arts and Entertainment
tvPoldark episode 8, review
News
Britain's opposition Labour Party leader Ed Miliband (R) and Boris Johnson, mayor of London, talk on the Andrew Marr show in London April 26
General electionAndrew Marr forced to intervene as Boris and Miliband clash on TV
Arts and Entertainment
Ramsay Bolton in Game of Thrones
tvSeries 5, Episode 3 review
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooks
ebooksA special investigation by Andy McSmith
  • Get to the point
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Ashdown Group: Senior Accounts Assistant - Accounts Payable - St. Albans

£26000 - £28000 per annum + benefits : Ashdown Group: Senior Accounts Assistan...

Ashdown Group: Treasury Assistant - Accounts Assistant - London, Old Street

£24000 - £26000 per annum + benefits : Ashdown Group: A highly successful, glo...

Recruitment Genius: Installation and Service / Security Engineer

£22000 - £40000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This company is part of a Group...

Recruitment Genius: Service Charge Accounts Assistant

£16000 - £18000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Are you a a young, dynamic pers...

Day In a Page

Not even the 'putrid throat' could stop the Ross Poldark swoon-fest'

Not even the 'putrid throat' could stop the Ross Poldark swoon-fest'

How a costume drama became a Sunday night staple
Miliband promises no stamp duty for first-time buyers as he pushes Tories on housing

Miliband promises no stamp duty for first-time buyers

Labour leader pushes Tories on housing
Aviation history is littered with grand failures - from the the Bristol Brabazon to Concorde - but what went wrong with the SuperJumbo?

Aviation history is littered with grand failures

But what went wrong with the SuperJumbo?
Fear of Putin, Islamists and immigration is giving rise to a new generation of Soviet-style 'iron curtains' right across Europe

Fortress Europe?

Fear of Putin, Islamists and immigration is giving rise to a new generation of 'iron curtains'
Never mind what you're wearing, it's what you're reclining on

Never mind what you're wearing

It's what you're reclining on that matters
General Election 2015: Chuka Umunna on the benefits of immigration, humility – and his leader Ed Miliband

Chuka Umunna: A virus of racism runs through Ukip

The shadow business secretary on the benefits of immigration, humility – and his leader Ed Miliband
Yemen crisis: This exotic war will soon become Europe's problem

Yemen's exotic war will soon affect Europe

Terrorism and boatloads of desperate migrants will be the outcome of the Saudi air campaign, says Patrick Cockburn
Marginal Streets project aims to document voters in the run-up to the General Election

Marginal Streets project documents voters

Independent photographers Joseph Fox and Orlando Gili are uploading two portraits of constituents to their website for each day of the campaign
Game of Thrones: Visit the real-life kingdom of Westeros to see where violent history ends and telly tourism begins

The real-life kingdom of Westeros

Is there something a little uncomfortable about Game of Thrones shooting in Northern Ireland?
How to survive a social-media mauling, by the tough women of Twitter

How to survive a Twitter mauling

Mary Beard, Caroline Criado-Perez, Louise Mensch, Bunny La Roche and Courtney Barrasford reveal how to trounce the trolls
Gallipoli centenary: At dawn, the young remember the young who perished in one of the First World War's bloodiest battles

At dawn, the young remember the young

A century ago, soldiers of the Empire – many no more than boys – spilt on to Gallipoli’s beaches. On this 100th Anzac Day, there are personal, poetic tributes to their sacrifice
Dissent is slowly building against the billions spent on presidential campaigns – even among politicians themselves

Follow the money as never before

Dissent is slowly building against the billions spent on presidential campaigns – even among politicians themselves, reports Rupert Cornwell
Samuel West interview: The actor and director on austerity, unionisation, and not mentioning his famous parents

Samuel West interview

The actor and director on austerity, unionisation, and not mentioning his famous parents
General Election 2015: Imagine if the leading political parties were fashion labels

Imagine if the leading political parties were fashion labels

Fashion editor, Alexander Fury, on what the leaders' appearances tell us about them
Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka: Home can be the unsafest place for women

Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka: Home can be the unsafest place for women

The architect of the HeForShe movement and head of UN Women on the world's failure to combat domestic violence