Colo. prosecutors seek execution in theater attack
FILE - In this March 12, 2013 file photo, Aurora, Colo., theater shooting suspect James Holmes sits in the courtroom during his arraignment in Centennial, Colo. On Monday, April 1, 2013, prosecutors said they will seek the death penalty against Holmes. (AP Photo/Denver Post, RJ Sangosti, Pool, File)
Defense attorney Daniel King arrives at district court for a hearing in the case of Aurora theater shooting suspect James Holmes in Centennial, Colo., on Monday, April 1, 2013. The prosecution announced they will seek the death penalty against Holmes. (AP Photo/Ed Andrieski)
Robert and Arlene Holmes arrive at district court for a hearing in the case of their son, Aurora theater shooting suspect James Holmes, in Centennial, Colo., on Monday, April 1, 2013. The prosecutor announced he will seek the death penalty against Holmes. (AP Photo/Ed Andrieski)
Unidentified women embrace outside of the courtroom in the case of Aurora theater shooting suspect James Holmes in Centennial, Colo., on Monday, April 1, 2013, after hearing that the prosecution will seek the death penalty in the case against Holmes. (AP Photo/Brennan Linsley)
District Attorney George Brauchler arrives at district court for a hearing in the case of Aurora theater shooting suspect James Holmes in Centennial, Colo., on Monday, April 1, 2013. Brauchler announced he will seek the death penalty against Holmes. (AP Photo/Ed Andrieski)
This photo provided by the Judicial Branch of the state of Colorado shows 18th Judicial District Judge Carlos Armando Samour Jr. On Monday, April 1, 2013, District Judge William Sylvester named Samour to take over the case of Aurora, Colo., theater shooting suspect James Holmes. As chief judge for the district, Sylvester is responsible for the overall running of the court and said he couldnt do that and also oversee a complicated death penalty case. (AP Photo/State of Colorado Judicial Branch)
Sherry Delaney, right, hugs Arlene Holmes, center, as Robert Holmes, left, looks on as they leave the courthouse in Centennial, Colo., on Monday, April 1, 2013, after attending hearings in the case against their son Aurora theater shooting suspect James Holmes. The prosecution announced they would seek the death penalty against Holmes. (AP Photo/Brennan Linsley)
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’s 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’s 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 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’s 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 defense could still reach a deal before the case goes to trial.