Nation/World

James Holmes Offers to Plead Guilty to Avoid Death Penalty

CENTENNIAL, Colo. — Defense attorneys for James E. Holmes, accused in the Aurora movie theater shooting, have offered a guilty plea and life in prison without parole if prosecutors do not seek the death penalty against him, according to court documents filed Wednesday.

The filing comes just days before the April 1 deadline newly elected Dist. Atty. George Brauchler of the 18th Judicial District gave for his decision on whether he will seek the death penalty against Holmes.

The defense said in its court document that the standing offer to prosecutors has been in place for weeks. The prosecution has not agreed to the offer, the document said.

holmes-new-hairHolmes, 25, a former neuroscience doctoral student at the University of Colorado-Denver, is charged with 166 counts of first-degree murder, attempted murder and weapons violations in connection with the July 20 mass shooting in a packed suburban movie theater. Twelve people died and 70 were injured in a massacre that captured worldwide horror and has become a touchstone in the current national gun debate.

Two weeks ago, an impatient Chief Judge William Sylvester, of the state’s 18thJudicial District, entered a not guilty plea on Holmes’ behalf at an arraignment — after defense lawyers said they were not yet prepared to enter a plea. The arraignment had been postponed several times prior and the judge said the case needed to move forward.

It has been widely expected that the defense would seek an insanity defense. If Holmes is found to be insane or suffer from a mental defect, he could not be put to death. The defense unsuccessfully challenged the constitutionality of Colorado’s insanity defense laws.

The Wednesday filing again indicates Holmes’ lawyers are still considering an insanity defense. “As previously stated in court, counsel for Mr. Holmes are still exploring a mental health defense, and counsel will vigorously present and argue any and all appropriate defenses at a trial or sentencing,” the filing said.

But the defense document also complained it had offered a guilty plea in exchange for not seeking the death penalty prior to the March 12 arraignment and was rebuffed by the prosecution. “It appears the only impediment to a resolution of this case would be if the prosecution chooses to seek the death penalty,” defense lawyers wrote.

Because the case is under a strict gag order, the prosecution cannot comment on this latest filing.

A trial for Holmes was set for Aug. 5 and was expected to last about a month. However, the defense said in its motion that if the prosecution decided to seek the death penalty, the trial would have to be delayed and would take much longer.

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