On Thursday, James Holmes, the shooter behind the July 2012 Colorado theater shooting, was found guilty on 165 charges of murder and attempted murder as well as an explosive device charge. The shooting resulted in 12 deaths and 70 injuries. Holmes' defense entered a "not guilty" plea by reason of insanity, but the prosecution attested to his legal sanity and awareness of his actions during the shooting episode. Now that the guilty verdict has officially been released, it is a question of when is James Holmes' death penalty trial and whether he will face capital punishment. The Los Angeles Times reported the trial will now enter its "penalty phase," and the jury will reconvene next Wednesday.
After the verdicts were read, Arapahoe County Judge Carlos A. Samour Jr. told members of the jury they would have two options going forward: "Life in prison without the possibility of parole or the death penalty. Those are the only choices." Craig Silverman, a former Denver chief deputy district attorney, told the Times the death penalty would require a unanimous verdict. "The only danger now for the prosecution is a holdout juror," Silverman said. However, he told the Times he did not expect a holdout given the speed of the verdict on Thursday.
The prosecution pushed for the death penalty as early as April 2013. "It is my determination and my intention that in this case, for James Eagan Holmes, justice is death," Arapahoe County District Attorney George Brauchler stated in 2013. As of 1979, Colorado may be one of 32 states in America in which the death penalty is legal, but Colorado's governor, John Hickenlooper, has made it clear on numerous occasions that no inmate on death row will face the death penalty while he is governor. In 2013, Hickenlooper expressed strong reservations regarding the death penalty. Upon granting a temporary reprieve on inmate Nathan Dunlap and considering full clemency, Hickenlooper stated:
The inmates currently on death row have committed heinous crimes, but so have many others who are serving mandatory life sentences.
If Holmes should be sentenced to face the death penalty, lethal injection is currently the only legal form of execution in the state of Colorado. The most recent Colorado execution, in the form of lethal injection, took place in 1997. The jury is set to reach a decision on Holmes' fate some time next week.
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