James Holmes killed 12 people and injured another 58 during his shooting rampage at a screening of “The Dark Knight.” Now Holmes faces death himself at the hands of the state.
On Monday, Arapahoe County District Attorney George Brauchler announced, “It is my determination and my intention that in this case, for James Eagen Holmes, justice is death.” Brauchler said he had spoken to 60 relatives of people killed on July 20, 2012 – and that his office has spoken to 800 survivors and victim’s family members – before coming to his decision.
As Brauchler made his intention public, the 25-year-old Holmes made no sound and betrayed no emotion. He swiveled in his chair as attorneys discussed future hearings. Holmes’ parents held hands and consoled one another at the news.
Family and friends of Holmes’ victims agreed with the prosecutor’s decision. “I don’t know if it’s painful. I want him dead. I just want to be there in the room when he dies,” Bryan Beard, a friend of the deceased Alex Sullivan, told ABC News, “He took one of my friends from this Earth. Death equals death.”
Also on Monday, 18th Judicial District Chief Judge William Sylvester announced that he would no longer preside over the case, instead tapping Judge Carlos Samour to head the proceedings. Sylvester said his administrative duties would make it difficult for him to oversee a complicated case like Holmes’.
Samour set aside a full seven weeks for pre-trial motions and pushed the start date for Holmes’ trial to February 2, 2014 – it had previously been scheduled for August 2013. The trial is expected to take four months. Holmes has been charged with 166 counts of murder, attempted murder, and other crimes associated with the shootings at the Century Aurora 16 movie theater.
Last week, Holmes’ defense team made news by disclosing in a court filing that they had offered to plead guilty to the crimes in exchange for a sentence of life imprisonment. Prosecutors said Holmes failed to meet their requirements to ascertain a plea agreement, and noted that the now-publicly acknowledged offer is further proof that his own lawyers believe Holmes is guilty.
Another sideshow in the Holmes hearing involved the continuing controversy surrounding Fox News reporter Jana Winter. Winter cited anonymous law enforcement sources when she reported that Holmes had previously sent his psychiatrist a notebook containing drawings that provided clues that Holmes might snap and carry out the sort of carnage he ultimately unleashed on July 20. Holmes’ lawyers maintain that whoever told Winter about the notebook violated the judge’s gag order. Winter is fighting the subpoena, citing the Shield Law that protects reporters from revealing their sources. Another hearing in that matter has been scheduled for April 10.
Colorado currently has three inmates on death row, but has executed just one person in the last 45 years — convicted rapist and murderer Gary Lee Davis was killed in 1997.