Arlene Holmes calls her son "severely mentally ill" and calls on the U.S. to abolish the death penalty

By Steve Helling
Updated April 06, 2015 02:25 PM
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Credit: RJ Sangosti/Denver Post/AP; Andy Cross/Denver Post/AP

Arlene Holmes, the mother of Aurora theater shooting suspect James Holmes, has finally spoken out.

In a new book titled When the Focus Shifts: The Prayer Book of Arlene Holmes 2013-2014, she journals her feelings after the shooting that killed 12 people and injured 70 others in Aurora, Colorado, in July 2012.

Mental Illness and the Death Penalty

In her foreword, Holmes says that she will donate the proceeds of her book to mental health services. “This book is being published to raise awareness of the immorality of the death penalty,” she writes. “Severely mentally ill people need treatment, not execution.”

On Sept. 12, 2013, she reflects on her son’s state of mind. “I thought what my son did was completely insane,” she writes. “He did what no sane man would do. But the law says a man who knows murder is wrong, then murders anyway, is sane. How can a juror say he was sane or insane?”

She also takes aim at the District Attorney’s office. “Prosecutors, I don’t know what you have been through in life,” she writes. “I do not know why you want to pursue execution of a mentally ill man. But I pray for you, so that you will find peace in your life.”

Praying for the Victims

On Jan. 8, 2013, Holmes writes about the victims’ suffering. “Are they awake at 2:00 as I am?” she writes. “I can never forgive myself for not knowing that this would happen.”

On Feb. 15, 2013, she writes, “I pray for the victims daily. Plus, I pray for the loved ones of the twelve deceased daily. The first time that I prayed for them by name and by wound, I was shaking, overcome … Please, victims, please, feel my prayers. I pray for you by name.”

The Media and Public Perception

Holmes takes aim at the media in an entry from July 3, 2013. “How does the media get it wrong so often?” she asks. “Jim never worked at any fast food restaurant. I was never a psychiatric nurse. Jim never sent a package from school to our house. I pray that readers can discern the truth.”

She also has harsh words for Internet commenters. “Did the internet change the world or just make us mean?” she writes. “I am praying for people who post their hatred – venting, vulgar, vicious.”

A Mother’s Grief

Most of all, Holmes expresses concern for her son. “The only colors in Jim’s world are the colors of his jail scrubs,” she writes. “I fear he will never see a flower again. I am praying that Jim will not die in his cell.”

In May 2013, she writes about leaving her son’s room untouched. “I sit on his bed and stare at the walls,” she writes. “How can the kid who read about the Berenstain Bears and Jon Stewart‘s Earth and Uncle John’s Bathroom Reader, how could he change? How can the brain change that drastically.”

I leave his room untouched because I need the memories and tangible evidence that he was a good person,” she writes. “If that all goes away, I only have today. Today is unbearable and tomorrow uncertain.”

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