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Saturday, June 22, 2024 | Back issues
Courthouse News Service Courthouse News Service

Mass Murder Suspect|Wants a Plea Deal

DENVER (CN) - Attorneys for accused mass murderer James Holmes said the alleged movie killer is willing to spend his life in prison if prosecutors agree not to seek his execution.

In a motion filed Wednesday, attorneys for Holmes, accused of killing 12 people and wounding dozens during a midnight showing of "The Dark Knight Rises" in Aurora last year, said that Holmes would enter a guilty plea at an April 1 hearing if the state agrees not to seek the death penalty.

At Holmes's March 12 arraignment, Arapahoe County Judge William Sylvester entered a not guilty plea on Holmes's behalf after his attorneys said they were not prepared, in part because they didn't know if Holmes would face a capital trial.

At that hearing, prosecutors indicated they would announce a decision on the death penalty at the next pre-trial hearing, on April 1.

In their motion Wednesday, defense attorneys Daniel King and Tamara Brady revealed that a deal to spare Holmes' life has been on the table for weeks.

"Prior to arraignment, 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," the motion states. "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 defense at a trial or sentencing proceeding, as necessary. Nevertheless, Mr. Holmes is currently willing to resolve the case to bring the proceedings to a speedy and definite conclusion for all involved.

"The prosecution at this time has not accepted that offer because it may choose to pursue the death penalty. Consequently, it appears the only impediment to a resolution of this case would be if the prosecution chooses to seek the death penalty. If the prosecution elects not to pursue the death penalty, then it is Mr. Holmes' position that this case be resolved on April 1."

King and Brady warned that a capital trial of this magnitude - Holmes faces 166 criminal counts - would take months to complete. The trial is scheduled to begin on Aug. 5 and last for four weeks.

"The current trial date would obviously need to be vacated," the motion states. "The pretrial investigation related to a capital case cannot be completed by the current trial date. In addition, the current trial is scheduled for only four weeks. The recent capital jury trials of Sir Mario Owens, Robert Ray, and David Bueno all took closer to four months, and none of those cases involved near as many charged counts or victims as this case, nor did they involve possible mental health defense. Mr. Holmes would be willing to waive speedy trial while pretrial motions are initially being litigated, and the parties and the court could assess setting a trial date at a later time."

Holmes' defense also proposed a tentative schedule for pretrial motions hearings, should a capital trial take place.

"If ... the prosecution elects to pursue the death penalty, Mr. Holmes submits the following scheduling suggestions for consideration by the court and prosecution. In the recent capital cases of People v. Sir Mario Owens, People v. Robert Ray, and People v. Josiah Sher, the court and parties created a schedule of motions issue to be addressed by category on approximately a monthly basis. Mr. Holmes proposes that motions in this case be categorized as follows: a) Discovery/access to evidence issues; b) Housekeeping/procedural motions; c) Challenges to the charging document; d) Suppression issues; e) Motions pertaining to expert testimony/scientific evidence; f) Motions pertaining to jury selections; g) Substantive and procedural motions related to the sentencing hearing and the death penalty; h) Evidentiary motions/motions in limine; i) Miscellaneous motions.

"The defense proposes litigating suppression issues and challenges to the charging document during the first set of motions hearings.

"Thereafter, the defense suggests that the court consider motions pertaining to expert testimony/scientific evidence, motions pertaining to jury selection, substantive and procedural motions related to the sentencing hearing and the death penalty and, finally, evidentiary motions and motions in limine. The remaining categories of motions, such as discovery or housekeeping motions, would be addressed on an as-needed basis."

In related news, Judge Sylvester denied a request for continuance from Fox News reporter Jana Winter, who is scheduled to testify Monday about a story she wrote that leaked details of the contents of a notebook that Holmes allegedly sent to his psychiatrist before the shooting.

Holmes's attorneys argued in January that Winter flouted a court-issued gag order when she published the article, which cited an unnamed law enforcement official claiming that the notebook contained "details about how he was going to kill people."

In a ruling made public Wednesday, Sylvester confirmed that a New York judge had signed a subpoena ordering Winter to testify in Colorado, and denied the reporter's follow-up requests to stay the subpoena pending her appeal.

Sylvester said he "understands the challenge of Ms. Winter's situation" but nonetheless ordered her to appear on April 1, citing the need for a speedy trial.

Court records show that Winter is represented by Dori Hansworth with Hogan Lovells in New York.

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