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Colorado prosecutors seeking death penalty for Holmes

10:10 AM, Apr 1, 2013   |    comments
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Photo by Arapahoe County Sheriff's Office via Getty Images).

CENTENNIAL, COLO. - Arapahoe County prosecutors will seek the death penalty against graduate school dropout James Holmes, accused of first-degree murder in the July 2012 deaths of 12 Aurora movie theater goers.

At a court hearing Monday, George Brauchler, Arapahoe County's District Attorney, formally rejected a defense bid that Holmes plead guilty in exchange for a life sentence without parole. Holmes faces an August trial for killing 12. Nearly 70 others were wounded or injured while fleeing.

"In this case, for James Egan Holmes, justice is death," Brauchler said, after explained his office has spoken with more than 800 victims and their families.

Holmes showed no visible reaction to the announcement, but his parents clasped hands and then embraced.

Holmes' court appointed attorneys said in a court filing last week that their guilty plea offer could have ended prolonged legal maneuvering. "Mr. Holmes is currently willing to resolve the case to bring the proceedings to a speedy and definite conclusion for all involved," Holmes' lawyers said in their motion.

Without such a deal, public defenders Daniel King and Tamara Brady said that an insanity defense virtually a lock. They've said repeatedly at prior hearings that Holmes, who dropped out of a University of Colorado neuroscience doctoral program after failing a final exam in May, suffers from mental illness. Holmes, 25, was undergoing psychiatric care before dropping out in May.


In a response to the filing, Brauchler said that the plea offer was a "unusual and unprecedented" and done as a publicity ploy that violates Judge William Sylvester's standing gag order on the case.

Legal experts say without a plea deal, an insanity defense may be Holmes' only legal recourse. At his January preliminary hearing, prosecutors presented seeming overwhelming evidence that showed Holmes methodically planning his July 20 attack at Aurora's Century 16 theater complex, buying an assault rifle, shotgun, two semi-automatic pistols, over 6,000 rounds of ammunition, bomb-making material and other gear for nearly two months prior to shootings.

Photos from his cellphone showed he had staked out the rear of the theater and exit doors before the shootings. Aurora police arrested Holmes in the rear of the theater parking lot minutes after the shootings.

Trevor Hughes and Gary Strauss, USA Today

Strauss reported from McLean, Va. Contributing: Associated Press

Gannett/USA Today

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