Prosecutors will seek the death penalty against accused theatre gunman James Holmes in the slaying of 12 moviegoers during a showing of the Batman film "The Dark Knight Rises" last year, the district attorney said in court in Centennial, Colorado on Monday (April 1st).
Holmes, age 25, is accused of opening fire inside a suburban Denver theatre in Aurora, Colorado during a midnight screening of the movie last July in what was one of the deadliest outbursts of gun violence in U.S. history.
Holmes is charged with multiple counts of murder and attempted murder in the shooting rampage, which also wounded 58 moviegoers. Another dozen people suffered non-gunshot injuries as they fled the cinema.
Arapahoe County District Attorney George Brauchler had previously announced he had assigned a death penalty lawyer to the prosecution team, and in court documents released March 28th rejected a defence offer to let Holmes plead guilty and serve a life sentence if capital punishment were taken off the table.
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.
Outside of the courthouse, Bryan Beard welcomed the prosecutors' decision. His friend Alex Sullivan died in the Aurora theatre just before his 27th birthday. Beard attended the court hearing Monday.
"My original thought was, 'thank goodness.' I am so happy this is happening. I've said this once, and this is the last time I'll say it, the only way that death will receive justice, when somebody murders somebody else, is death. I guess you fight fire with fire. It sounds awful, but I'm tired of being so politically correct. You know, if somebody takes and eye, you can't just be like - slap on the wrist. You can't," Beard said.
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 agreed not to seek to have their client executed.
While Holmes' attorneys said they are prepared to mount an insanity defence, 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."
District Attorney George Brauchler, in a written response, called the move by the defence improper at this stage of the case and "that it was filed for the intended purpose of generating the predictable pre-trial publicity."
In court pleadings, public defenders Daniel King and Tamara Brady have said Holmes has been hospitalised 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.