Parents of Accused Colorado Theater Shooter Ask That He Be Sentenced to Life

James Holmes's parents ask for a life sentence and institutional care – not a murder trial and possible execution

Photo: RJ Sangosti/The Denver Post/Getty

The parents of James Holmes, who stands accused of opening fire inside an Aurora, Colorado, theater two years ago killing 12 people, say their son is mentally ill and deserving of institutional care, not a murder trial that could result in his execution.

Writing in the Denver Post, Robert and Arlene Holmes noted the public outcry against their son, 27, who has pleaded not guilty to the alleged attack by reason of insanity.

But, they argue, a trial and media attention would only serve to further upset a community damaged significantly after the July 2012 shooting rampage, which also injured 70.

“We do not know how many victims of the theater shooting would like to see our son killed. But we are aware of people’s sentiments,” the couple, who live in Rancho Penasquitos, California, wrote in an opinion column published Friday.

“We have read postings on the Internet that have likened him to a monster. He is not a monster. He is a human being gripped by a severe mental illness.”

The parents added: “We believe that the death penalty is morally wrong, especially when the condemned is mentally ill.”

Holmes’s attorneys had requested a change of venue, noting the likely media onslaught and attention. Jury selection for his trial is set for Jan. 20, the Associated Press reported.

Meanwhile, the parents argue that allowing him to accept a life sentence without possibility of parole would save heartache for everyone involved and allow him to receive psychiatric care.

“We realize treatment in an institution would be best for our son. We love our son, we have always loved him, and we do not want him to be executed,” they wrote.

“In the criminal justice system, the prosecution and defense can agree to a sentence of life in prison, without parole, in exchange for a guilty plea,” they added. “If that happened, our son would be in prison the rest of his life, but no one would have to relive those horrible events at a trial the media has permission to televise.”

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