Alleged Aurora theater shooter offers guilty plea to avoid death sentence

Greg Campbell | Contributor

The man accused of shooting up a midnight showing of “The Dark Knight Rises” at an Aurora, Colo. movie theater last year, killing 12 and injuring at least 58 others, has agreed to plead guilty and spend his life in prison without the opportunity for parole if it means avoiding the death penalty.

Lawyers for accused-shooter James Holmes made the offer in a court filing Wednesday, writing that the only impediment to bringing the case to a “speedy and definitive conclusion for all involved” was whether prosecutors would accept the deal.

If prosecutors elect to seek death, Holmes will consider a mental health defense.

Prosecutors are expected to make their decision on Monday, according to the Denver Post.

Holmes is charged with 166 counts, including murder and attempted murder, for the July 20 assault on the Aurora Century 16 movie theater.

He is accused of casing the theater and carefully plotting an attack in which he allegedly tossed tear gas into the packed audience and opened fire with an AR 15, a shotgun and a handgun. Police testified about the chaotic night during a preliminary hearing earlier this year, with several officers describing taking Holmes into custody outside the rear exit of the theater. They said he was dressed in head-to-toe body armor.

Prosecutors have hinted that they may seek the death penalty, just as Holmes’s attorneys have hinted that they may enter an insanity defense.

In Wednesday’s court filing, his attorneys say they offered to plead guilty prior to Holmes arraignment on March 12.

“If the prosecution elects not to pursue the death penalty, then it is Mr. Holmes’ position that this case could be resolved on April 1,” the next court date, according to the filing.

If they are to seek his death upon conviction, Holmes’s lawyers asked the court to vacate the coming trial date, which is four weeks away, in order to prepare for “any and all appropriate defenses” related to a mental illness defense.

Prosecutors are discussing the proposed plea arrangement with victims and their families, according to the Post.

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