Holmes defense lawyers may plead guilty to avoid death penalty


DENVER | Lawyers for Colorado theater shooting suspect James Holmes said Wednesday he would plead guilty and serve the rest of his life in prison to avoid the death penalty.

The offer sets up a possible end to the case if prosecutors agree to a plea deal. They’re set to announce Monday whether they’ll seek capital punishment and wouldn’t comment Wednesday on the filing, although defense attorneys said their offer hasn’t been accepted.

Melisa Cowden, whose ex-husband was killed in the theater, said Wednesday she was resolutely opposed to a plea deal.

“He didn’t give 12 people the chance to plea bargain and say, ‘Let’s see if you’re going to shoot me or not,'” said Cowden, whose two teenage daughters were with their father when he was killed.

“No. No plea bargain,” she said.

“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, it is Mr. Holmes’ position that this case could be resolved April 1,” defense lawyers wrote.

Prosecutors would likely consult with victims and their families before deciding whether to accept the offer. Holmes’ lawyers said the case could end Monday if prosecutors accept.

Holmes’ attorneys told a judge earlier this month they weren’t ready to enter a plea in the case, and the judge entered a not guilty plea on his behalf.

Prosecutors say Holmes planned the assault for months, casing the theater complex in Aurora, amassing a small arsenal and rigging potentially deadly booby-traps in his apartment.

Then he donned a police-style helmet and body armor, tossed a gas canister into the theater crowd and opened fire, prosecutors said.

Pierce O’Farrill, who was shot three times, said he would welcome an agreement that would imprison Holmes for life. The years of court struggles ahead would likely be emotionally stressful for victims, he said.

“I don’t see his death bringing me peace,” O’Farrill said. “To me, my prayer for him was that he would spend the rest of his life in prison and hopefully, in all those years he has left, he could find God and ask for forgiveness himself.”

Tom Sullivan, whose son Alex was killed, said he has wanted prosecutors to pursue the death penalty. But he said he wouldn’t object to a plea agreement if it avoided a lengthy court battle — and if Holmes got no privileges in prison.

“That was kind of a sore point with us,” he said, referring to privileges such as outside exercise or listening to music. “We didn’t think this kind of person should have any kind of privileges except the bare essentials.”

Nearly eight months later, the defense has dropped hints about Holmes’ mental state but has given no clear statement on whether he would plead insanity.

Holmes, a former graduate student at the University of Colorado, Denver, had seen a psychiatrist at the school before the shootings.

Last week, his lawyers revealed that he was taken to a hospital psychiatric ward in November because he was considered a threat to himself. Holmes was held there for several days and spent much of the time in restraints.

The judge scheduled the trial to start Aug. 5, setting aside four weeks.

If Holmes opts for a guilty plea, he wouldn’t be the first Aurora defendant to cop a plea to avoid a death sentence.

In 2005, Damien Michael Arguello pleaded guilty to counts of first-degree murder in Adams County in exchange for prosecutors opting not to pursue the death penalty.

In that case, Arguello stabbed his wife and infant son to death at their north Aurora home and later confessed to the crime.

Prosecutors considered the death penalty, but in July 2005, about 10 months after the slayings, they accepted a plea deal. Under the deal, Arguello pleaded guilty and was sentenced to life in prison without the possibility of parole. He is currently serving his time at the Limon Correctional Facility, according to state records.

“The guilty pleas ensure that he will die in prison for the crimes that he committed,” Mike Goodbee, former assistant district attorney of the 17th Judicial District, said at the time. “It was to avoid a protracted, lengthy trial and appeal, and to enable surviving family members to begin to put their lives together.”

Crystal Arguello, 25, and her 16-month-old son, Rayven Arguello, were found stabbed to death in a bedroom of their home at 2501 Altura Blvd. Rayven was left with a steak knife in his chest.

Both were stabbed several times.

Adams County District Attorney Dave Young was one of the prosecutors on the Arguello case and said this year after being sworn in that the possibility of a death sentence proved particularly useful to prosecutors.

“If the death penalty wasn’t there, the case could still be in litigation,” he said.


Aurora Sentinel reporter Brandon Johansson contributed to this report.




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9 years ago

Dear Editor,
After snuffing out 12 innocent lives and injuring 60 others, James Holmes
is trying to negotiate a life sentences of food , shelter, heat, TV, Gym,
library for pleading guilty. I might give him life in solitary
confinement for life. What bargaining power does he have? If he’s able to
determine what is best for him in this instance then he is mentally
competent be face a court setting. And hopefully the jury will see that
this animal deserves no mercy and no consideration. James Holmes deserves
to be executed like Timothy James McVeigh was. And if there is a God, may
he subject Mr. Holmes to the sum total of all the pain and trauma which
Holmes subjected all of his victims to.


Joseph DuPont

Richard Clark
9 years ago

Where are the people that should be protesting violent movies because that’s why he did this….he thought he was the joker…..if that movie hadn’t been made then he wouldn’t had used that as a a excuse right? Now shouldn’t those democrats be banning violent movies?? clear cut connection here between movie and massacre…..can’t do that huh? i mean you would lose all those liberal hollywood votes…..you just pick and choose what rights to do away with.