CullmanTimes.com - Cullman, Alabama

National News

March 27, 2013

Colo. theater shooting suspect offers guilty plea

DENVER — Colorado theater shooting suspect James Holmes has offered to plead guilty and serve the rest of his life in prison to avoid the death penalty — a deal that would bring a swift end to the sometimes wrenching courtroom battle and circumvent a prolonged debate over his sanity.

Prosecutors haven't said whether they would accept the offer, and victims and survivors of last summer's massacre were divided on what should be done.

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 attack during a crowded midnight showing of "The Dark Knight Rises" left a dozen people dead and 70 injured.

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

Then on July 20, he donned a police-style helmet and body armor, tossed a gas canister into the theater crowd and opened fire, prosecutors said.

The plea offer, made by Holmes' lawyers on his behalf sometime before March 12, was disclosed a defense court filing on Wednesday. It was made public just days before the prosecution was set to announce whether they would seek the death penalty.

The filing didn't include the specifics of the offer. It said only that Holmes would agree to life in prison without parole — instead of the death penalty — and didn't mention any other concessions.

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."

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

His lawyers have said 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.

In their court filing, Holmes' lawyers again said they were exploring a plea of not guilty by reason of insanity and would mount a vigorous defense if prosecutors rejected the plea offer and the case goes to trial.

Holmes was widely expected to enter an insanity plea at his arraignment on March 12, but his attorneys told District Judge William Sylvester they had too many questions about the constitutionality of Colorado's death penalty and insanity statutes to advise Holmes on how to plead.

Sylvester then entered a plea of not guilty on Holmes' behalf but said he could change it later to insanity if he chose.

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

Doug Wilson, who heads the state public defenders' office, told The Associated Press Wednesday that prosecutors haven't responded to the offer. He didn't know whether prosecutors had relayed the offer with any victims as required by state law.

Prosecutors declined to comment on Wednesday.

Dan Recht, a past president of the Colorado Criminal Defense Bar, said prosecutors likely started talking to victims long ago.

"The defense, by making this public pleading, is reaching out to the victims' families," Recht said.

Also Wednesday, Sylvester denied a request from New York-based Fox News reporter Jana Winter to delay a Monday hearing where she has been ordered to testify about her sources for a story about Holmes.

Winter cited unnamed law enforcement officials saying Holmes sent drawings that foreshadowed the attack to a psychiatrist. Holmes' lawyers contend that whoever spoke to Winter violated a gag order.

 

1
Text Only
National News
  • Fort Hood (UPDATED) Officials: 4 dead, including gunman, at Fort Hood

    A gunman opened fire Wednesday at Fort Hood in an attack that left four dead, including the shooter, law enforcement officials said.
    One of the officials, citing official internal U.S. Justice Department updates, said 14 others were hurt. The officials spoke on condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to release information by name.

    April 2, 2014 1 Photo

  • Smartphone kill switches are coming

    Smartphones need kill switches. It's a relatively easy solution to the pricey (and irritating) problem of smartphone theft. But who would have thought that the big carriers would team up with Apple, Google, Microsoft, Nokia, Samsung and lots of other manufacturers to voluntarily begin adding the technology by July 2015? The cooperative spirit! It makes so much sense!

    April 18, 2014

  • Consumer spending on health care jumps as Affordable Care Act takes hold

    Nancy Beigel has known since September that she would need hernia surgery. She couldn't afford it on her $11,000 yearly income until she became eligible for Medicaid in January through President Barack Obama's signature health care law.

    April 17, 2014

  • mfp file Hoffner Fired coach unjustly accused of visiting porn sites

    The president of Minnesota State University-Mankato accused a football coach of looking at Internet porn on a work computer before firing him, an arbitrator has revealed. The official said the claim could not be supported, and the coach shouldn't have been fired.

    April 11, 2014 1 Photo

  • High School Stabbings 4 students seriously hurt in Pa. school stabbings

    A student armed with a knife went on a stabbing and slashing spree at a high school near Pittsburgh on Wednesday morning, leaving as many as 20 people injured, including four students who suffered serious wounds, authorities said.

    April 9, 2014 2 Photos

  • Obit Ultimate Warrior Former pro wrestler Ultimate Warrior dies at 54

    James Hellwig, better known as former pro wrestler The Ultimate Warrior, has died, the WWE said. He was 54.

    April 9, 2014 1 Photo

  • news_amazonfiretv.jpg Amazon introduces Fire TV to challenge Apple in living rooms

    Amazon.com Chief Executive Officer Jeff Bezos is stepping up efforts to win over customers in their living rooms with a $99 TV box for watching digitally delivered shows and movies, challenging Apple's TV device.

    April 3, 2014 1 Photo

  • Washington Mudslide Death toll in Washington mudslide rises to 30

    As medical examiners painstakingly piece together the identities and lives of the 30 people known killed when a mudslide wiped out a small Washington community, one mystery troubles them.

    April 3, 2014 1 Photo

  • APTOPIX Fort Hood Fort Hood gunman sought mental health treatment

    An Iraq War veteran being treated for mental illness was the gunman who opened fire at Fort Hood, killing three people and wounding 16 others before committing suicide, in an attack on the same Texas military base where more than a dozen people were slain in 2009, authorities said.

    April 3, 2014 1 Photo

  • Supreme Court Campaign Big donors may give even more under court’s ruling

    The Supreme Court ruling Wednesday erasing a long-standing limit on campaign donations will allow a small number of very wealthy donors to give even more than is currently the case, according to students of the complex campaign finance system, and could strengthen the establishment in both parties.

    April 2, 2014 1 Photo