Prosecutors said they will seek the death penalty against the man accused in last year’s movie theater attack that killed 12, wounded 70 and spurred new gun control laws in Colorado.
The much-anticipated disclosure came Monday in a court hearing held four days after prosecutors publicly rejected an offer by James Holmes’s attorneys that the former neuroscience graduate student would plead guilty to avoid execution.
Prosecutors had said the defense proposal wasn’t a valid plea-bargain offer, although they could still agree to a plea before the case goes to trial.
“It’s my determination and my intention that in this case for James Eagan Holmes justice is death,” Arapahoe County District Attorney George Brauchler said at the hearing. He spoke quietly and deliberately without any hesitation.
There was no audible reaction from Holmes, who sat in court with his back to reporters. Holmes’s parents sat side by side in the gallery, clutching hands with fingers intertwined.
They were also quiet, as were the victims in the courtroom when Brauchler disclosed his decision, which he said he had shared with no one.
Holmes’s attorneys are expected to argue he is not guilty because he was legally insane at the time of the July 20 shooting. They balked at entering that plea last month, saying they couldn’t make such a move until prosecutors made a formal decision on the death penalty.
The judge entered a not guilty plea on Holmes’s behalf.