James Holmes, the man accused in the Colorado shootings that killed 12 people and wounded another 58 at the new Batman movie premiere, "The Dark Knight Rises,” appeared in court for the first time Monday. Now that his proceedings are taking place, a big decision awaits – should he receive the death penalty?
Capital punishment is illegal in New York, but it is still accepted in Colorado, though rarely used. The last execution was in 1977. However, if Holmes, is found guilty, the enormity of his alleged crimes may show the death penalty to be the most suitable sentence.
According to Colorado lawyers, factors that favor the death penalty can include the defendant having a previous record of violent felonies, killing a police officer, killing by use of a bomb, especially cruel crimes, killing two or more people, and killing a child.
Victims of the shooting include Jon Blunk, a U.S. Navy sailor and father of two, who served three tours in the Persian Gulf and North Arabian Sea. He died while protecting his girlfriend from the bullets. Two other members of the military were killed as well, including, Jesse Childress, a member of the U.S. Air Force and John Larimer was a Navy sailor based at Buckley Air Force Base. Others include 18-year-old AJ Boik who had just graduated high school and 23-year-old college student Micayla Medek. Alex Sullivan who went to the movies that night to celebrate his 27th birthday and first wedding anniversary also lost his life, along with four more victims. The youngest killed was 6-year-old Veronica Moser-Sullivan. She had just learned to swim, her family told Yahoo!
More information about the attack is coming through including the speculation that the attack was premeditated. Holmes’ home was found to be rigged with booby traps for anyone who would enter searching for him, and he was said to have worn full protection gear, including a mask that would have shielded him from the smoke bombs he allegedly set off before the shooting began. If convicted, those pieces of information may become tools to show that Holmes clearly knew what he was doing, and was not mentally ill. However, his dyed orange hair, look of confusion and detached sense of reality in court Monday are also being questioned as a sign of potential mental instability.
Holmes, 24, is is expected to return to court next week, to be formally charged with murder and enter a plea. He is being held in solitary confinement and was brought to the courtroom through an underground tunnel, ABC reported.
If the death penalty is sought, it is expected to be a very long process that would impact victims and family members for years, prosecutors told ABC News. Prosecutors will have 60 days to decide if they will seek the death penalty.