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James Holmes Reportedly Ready To Plead Guilty To Avoid Death Penalty

It’s being reported that lawyers for accused Aurora, Colorado shooter James Holmes are prepared to offer a plea deal:

DENVER (AP) — Lawyers for Colorado theater shooting suspect James Holmes said Wednesday he would plead guilty and serve the rest of his life in prison to avoid the death penalty.

The offer comes just days before the prosecution was set to announce whether they would seek to have Holmes put to death for the attack that killed 12 people and injured 70.

Prosecutors wouldn’t say Wednesday whether they’d go along with a plea deal, and likely will consult with victims and their families before deciding whether to accept the offer.

If they agree, the case that started July 20 — when prosecutors say Holmes carried out the midnight massacre during a showing of the new Batman movie — could end quickly. In the filing, defense attorneys say the only thing that would hinder Holmes changing his plea on Monday is the prosecution’s decision.

In the filing, Holmes’ lawyers said they initially made the offer to plead guilty before Holmes’ arraignment on March 12. At that hearing, Holmes’ attorneys told a judge they weren’t ready to enter a plea in the case, and the judge entered a not guilty plea on his behalf.

Defense attorneys also said they’re still exploring a mental health defense and “counsel will vigorously present and argue any and all appropriate defenses at a trial or sentencing proceeding, as necessary.”

If this case does go to trial, Holmes will likely pursue an insanity defense which, even if not successful, would likely make any trial and the subsequent appeals far longer and more expensive than an ordinary murder trial. This may be one reason why prosecutors may be inclined to accept the plea.

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About Doug Mataconis
Doug holds a B.A. in Political Science from Rutgers University and J.D. from George Mason University School of Law. He joined the staff of OTB in May, 2010 and also writes at Below The Beltway. Follow Doug on Twitter | Facebook

Comments

  1. Ron Beasley says:

    While Oregon still has the death penalty prosecutors have been more than willing to accept plea bargains to avoid the death penalty because of the cost of a death penalty trial. In addition since the death penalty was reinstated the only two executions involved people who requested that appeals be ended.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 2 Thumb down 0

  2. @Ron Beasley:

    The Feds accepted a similar plea offer from the attorneys for Jared Loughner in the Gabby Giffords shooting. It’s the right decision.

    Of course, as an opponent of the death penalty, I will admit to having a bias in this matter.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 8 Thumb down 0

  3. @Ron Beasley:

    Also, for what it’s worth, Colorado has only executed one person since the Supreme Court decision in 1976 that reinstated the death penalty.

    Source

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 0 Thumb down 0

  4. Ron Beasley says:

    @Doug Mataconis: I agree with you on the death penalty for many of the same reasons – yes our judicial system is flawed. At the same time I often wonder is life in solitary confinement is even more inhumane.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 1 Thumb down 0

  5. @Doug Mataconis: Also for what it’s worth, the Colorado state legislature is prepared to ban the death penalty and would have a few weeks ago, if Gov. Hickenlooper hadn’t promised a veto.

    I think that are other reasons Holmes may want to put in a guilty plea now. Maybe he wants to avoid the scrutiny that would come from an insanity defense.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 1 Thumb down 0

  6. Tsar Nicholas says:

    So we’re going to be happy about avoiding the costs of a four-week trial, instead of a two-week trial, but then we’ll ignore the costs to taxpayers of feeding, housing, clothing and providing medical care to this miscreant, oh, say, for the next 50-60 years? Really? Really?? That’s cognitive dissonance, personified. Look, I understand the anti-death penalty agenda, I get that, but at least pretend not to be loopy about it.

    Speaking of which, if I were the prosecutor here I’d reject any plea bargain, for the specific purpose of trying to impose the death penalty. Holmes needs to be dead. As much as anyone in recent memory. Now, granted, if the jury wants to nullify that by voting for LWOP, or the judge upon a death recommendation wants to go LWOP, that’s one thing. OK, fair enough. That’s why we have judges and juries. But as an elected prosecutor your job in these sorts of cases is to charge for the death penalty. Otherwise you might as well have Loopy von Bleeding Heart as the county DA. Sheesh.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 1 Thumb down 11

  7. Rusty Shackleford says:

    @Ron Beasley:

    At the same time I often wonder is life in solitary confinement is even more inhumane.

    It is reversible though.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 4 Thumb down 0

  8. @Tsar Nicholas:

    “then we’ll ignore the costs to taxpayers of feeding, housing, clothing and providing medical care to this miscreant, oh, say, for the next 50-60 years?”

    Why not? We have the facilities. And if we want to save money, just release the prisoners in on drug charges.

    I agree with you, though. Holmes should be dead. He should have done what (nearly) all the other rampage killers have done and killed himself. Too bad he didn’t.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 2 Thumb down 0

  9. @Tsar Nicholas:

    Countless studies have shown that the death penalty actually ends up costing a state more than life imprisonment without parole.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 10 Thumb down 0

  10. @Tsar Nicholas:

    Also, if your argument in favor of the death penalty is “it’s cheaper,” that’s really kind of sick in my opinion.

    Based on that attitude, we may as well just have cops shoot criminal suspects in the head and avoid the need for a trial.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 11 Thumb down 0

  11. Ron Beasley says:

    @Doug Mataconis: I’m sure it’s wasted on Tsar and other sociopaths like him but both of your responses are spot on.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 6 Thumb down 0

  12. Ron Beasley says:

    @Tsar Nicholas: There is so much disinformation here. It;s not just the original trial but the years of appeals. Plus as Doug has said before our legal system is flawed and innocent people are convicted and the death penalty is not reversible. We already know that at least two innocent people were put to death in Texas and this is murder by the state. You are a sociopath.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 8 Thumb down 0

  13. @Ron Beasley: You gotta love a guy that says the government can’t do anything right but they should be able to try someone with the possibility that they will be sentenced to death.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 13 Thumb down 1

  14. Gustopher says:

    The death penalty is often sought in a discriminatory fashion — wealthy, whiter defendants are much less likely to have prosecutors seek it. There are two ways to address this: abolish it, or seek it in every potentially applicable case and refuse plea bargains.

    I’m ok with either.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 2 Thumb down 1

  15. ernieyeball says:

    @James Pearce (Formerly Known as Herb): Holmes should be dead. He should have done what (nearly) all the other rampage killers have done and killed himself.

    No. What all murderers of others who then commit suicide should have done is start by killing themselves first.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 3 Thumb down 1

  16. Neil Hudelson says:

    if I were the prosecutor here

    First you would need to be a lawyer, so this is truly hypothetical.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 1 Thumb down 0

  17. Septimius says:

    This case is a perfect example for why the death penalty is so important. Here we have lawyers for the defendant offering to have their client spend the rest of his life in prison. What do you think they’d be offering if there was no death penalty?

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 0 Thumb down 0

  18. Xerxes says:

    Unless you have a loved one who was murdered, you have no right to opine on the death penalty in this nation

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 1 Thumb down 7

  19. OzarkHillbilly says:

    @Xerxes:

    Unless you have a loved one who was murdered, you have no right to opine on the death penalty in this nation

    OK…. WE HAVE A WINNER!!!! Stupidist comment of the year goes to….

    XERXES!!!!

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 6 Thumb down 2

  20. OzarkHillbilly says:

    @Xerxes:

    Unless you have a loved one who was murdered,

    And for the record, I am one of those unfortunate people.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 3 Thumb down 0

  21. Xerxes says:

    @OzarkHillbilly: My sincerest condolences! I am very very sorry to hear that

    I just am angry about how this issue is being pontificated by some.

    I remember as a teenager one of friends who was one of my teammates on a Little League team was brutally murdered by a parolee who was previously convicted for….murder! Some people are animals.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 1 Thumb down 1

  22. wr says:

    @Neil Hudelson: Well, he could be the pretend prosecutor, since he’s a pretend lawyer…

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 1 Thumb down 0

  23. Ben says:

    @Xerxes:

    You don’t have the right to tell me what I have the right to opine on.

    The feelings of victims and their families is not the primary interest represented in our justice system. Criminal proceedings are on behalf of the state, it is our best interests that are being represented. I have every right to opine on the decisions of prosecutors as any other citizen.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 5 Thumb down 1

  24. matt bernius says:

    @Xerxes:

    Unless you have a loved one who was murdered, you have no right to opine on the death penalty in this nation

    This is a total load of bull, akin to the notion that you can’t talk about the military unless you have served in it.

    First of all, many of us who are passionate about this subject are because we have a better than average understanding of the legal system and it’s short comings. Doesn’t that provide us with an important perspective on how flawed the death sentence is.

    But further,, what gives you a right to have an opinion that matters? Sure you knew someone, but your weren’t directly related to them? By your logic, shouldn’t the family have more of a say?

    And while your comments suggest that you believe that the death penalty is a good thing, what about the countless number of victim’s families who are against the death penalty (one example group is here)? Shouldn’t we respect their “informed” opinions as well?

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 1 Thumb down 1

  25. matt bernius says:

    @Septimius:

    This case is a perfect example for why the death penalty is so important.

    What exceptionally cynical views you take. Yes, it’s totally worth the real possibility of sending a person who is innocent of the crime in question to their death in order to get the occasional plea deal.

    (Not to mention, incurring significant systemic costs via the appeal system)

    Here we have lawyers for the defendant offering to have their client spend the rest of his life in prison. What do you think they’d be offering if there was no death penalty?

    In a case like this, probably nothing. And chances are that they would still get a conviction.

    Sorry, the entire notion of keeping the death penalty to ensure plea deals is missing the forest for the trees.

    And, as always, it continues to amaze me how much the people who typically are the first to distrust our government are typically the first to argue in favor of the death penalty.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 0 Thumb down 0

  26. mantis says:

    @Xerxes:

    Unless you have a loved one who was murdered, you have no right to opine on the death penalty in this nation

    What if that loved one was murdered by the state by execution for a crime he didn’t commit?

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 2 Thumb down 1

  27. Tyrell says:

    I would let the families of the victims decide this. Since there is no question about his guilt, then there is no reason that there can’t be a quick trial. How long did those Nuremberg trials last? Did it take years and years to decide guilt or innocence of Ribbentrop and the other top Nazi leaders?

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 0 Thumb down 0