James Holmes Guilty Plea to Avoid Death Penalty Would Be a Travesty Of Justice

Last July James Holmes, a millennial, reignited the Second Amendment debate in the most horrific way when he opened fire in a movie theater filled with unsuspecting patrons in Aurora, Colorado. This week, that same 25-year-old man has offered to make a plea deal with the Arapahoe County district attorney .

In exchange for a guilty plea, which could wrap up the criminal trial by Monday, Holmes is seeking to avoid the death penalty. Although it could save the state of Colorado hundreds of thousands of dollars, it hardly feels as though justice would be served under this agreement.

This is just one of the many factors that the district attorney must consider before determining whether or not to move forward with the trial.

In Colorado, capital punishment is rarely carried out. The last time the Centennial State sentenced a criminal to death was in 1993, and that sentence has been tied up in appeals ever since. Moreover, the state has not executed a prisoner since 1997.

Furthermore, if the prosecution does not accept the deal, Holmes is likely to enter a plea of not guilty by reason of insanity for killing 12 people dead and injuring approximately 60 others.

It’s unfortunate that a precedent has been set for murderers to strike deals such as this with the prosecution. In neighboring Arizona, the state allowed 24-year-old Jared Loughner, the man responsible for the shooting that left six dead and Congresswoman Gabby Giffords severely wounded near Tuscon in January 2011, to escape the death penalty by entering a similar guilty plea last November.

The prosecution in the Holmes case has yet to accept the deal and has agreed to make a decision next week. The decision is sure to leave many frustrated. If the deal is accepted, Holmes will spend his days paying for his atrocities in a maximum-security prison, which will likely have far more amenities than he deserves. If the deal is rejected, a high-stakes gamble will ensue.

Holmes has a clear record of psychological treatment, having been admitted to a psychiatric ward months before the shooting. He will undergo rigorous evaluation before a trial could even commence. From there, his fate will be determined by the Colorado judicial system, which has a record of avoiding the death penalty.

Given the circumstances, it seems likely that Holmes will avoid execution altogether. If this is, indeed, the sentence awaiting the Aurora shooter, it would represent a clear failing of the judicial system.

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Chelsey Mullins

Chelsey received her Masters Degree in International Relations from the University of San Diego in 2012. Her academic interests include the MENA region, democratization, and Party politics. Her personal interests include the Lakers, video games, travel, and a solid California burrito.

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