Tuesday, April 2, 2013

Death penalty decision expected in James Holmes case

James Holmes sits with defense attorney Tamara Brady during his arraignment on March 12. (AP)

DENVER ? James Holmes, the man accused of killing 12 people and wounding nearly 70 others during a midnight shooting spree at an Aurora, Colo., movie theater last summer, will likely learn Monday whether he?ll face execution if convicted.

Prosecutors from the Arapahoe County District Attorney?s office plan to announce in a 9 a.m. MT hearing if they?ll seek the death penalty, should the case go to trial. Monday?s decision follows last week?s legal theatrics in which Holmes? defense team said it would enter a guilty plea if the district attorney settled on a life-in-prison sentence.

?It is Mr. Holmes? position that this case could be resolved on April 1,? his public defenders announced last Wednesday in wrote court filings posted online by the Denver Post. ?Mr. Holmes made an offer to the prosecution to resolve this case by pleading guilty and spending the rest of his life in prison, without any opportunity for parole.?

Not only did prosecutors decline the guilty offer ? first made prior to Holmes? March 12 arraignment ? they lambasted the defense for making it public.

In a 13-page rebuttal to the defense, the prosecution dubbed the public announcement ?grossly improper? and ?a calculated attempt to improperly inject? the plea in front of the Aurora community and the world. The prosecution also accused the Colorado public defenders office of violating the court?s order on pretrial publicity.

Because of the defense?s public plea, ?[t]he only conclusion that [people] would reach ? is that the defendant knows that he is guilty, the defense attorneys know that he is guilty, and that both of them know that he was not criminally insane,? the prosecution?s filing said.

Judge William Sylvester has scheduled the trial for four weeks starting Aug. 5. But the defense said that if the prosecution doesn?t accept the guilty plea, the trial could last months and could be delayed by multiple pre-trial motions. At the March arraignment, defense attorney Daniel King said a trial without the specter of the death penalty could take as little as three weeks. But if execution is sought, King said they?d mount a vigorous defense based on an insanity strategy.

A mental health defense would be central to Holmes? case, his attorneys have implied repeatedly. Nearly all courtroom argument so far has revolved around his mental state, with the prosecution alleging that Holmes carefully crafted a ?detailed and complex? scheme to commit mass murder ? with his sanity fully intact.

At the arraignment, King told Sylvester that Holmes wasn?t ready to enter a plea because the defense didn?t know if the prosecution wanted to pursue the death penalty. The judge then entered a not-guilty plea on Holmes? behalf, as allowed by law.

Also at Monday?s hearing, Jana Winter, a FoxNews.com reporter, is expected to testify about conversations she had with sources who gave her information for a story she wrote a few days after the July 20, 2012 theater massacre. Her story included details about an unopened package that Holmes mailed to the University of College at Denver. Winter, quoting unnamed-law enforcement officials, reported that Holmes sent his former psychiatrist a notebook containing drawings that foreshadowed the July 20 attack. Because of a court gag order, those law enforcement sources were prevented from talking to the media.

Holmes? attorneys have argued that by divulging details to Winter, the two sources damaged the defendant?s right to a fair trial. Winter, through her attorney, has on multiple occasions tried to avoid appearing in court and has appealed the subpoena in New York state. Sylvester has denied her motions.

Holmes, 25, was a former neuroscience student at UC-Denver before the massacre at the premiere of ?The Dark Knight Rises,? the latest Batman movie. Police arrested Holmes, who was wearing body armor and had weapons close by, behind the theater shortly after the shootings. Police say he also booby-trapped his nearby Aurora apartment with explosives to injure or kill anyone who entered. He faces multiple counts of murder and attempted murder.

Source: http://news.yahoo.com/blogs/lookout/death-penalty-decision-expected-james-holmes-case-113742034.html

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