It’s not hard to loathe James E. Holmes. He’s the individual accused of slaughtering 12 people and wounding 58 others in a movie theater last summer in Aurora, Colo. The incident, during the midnight screening of “The Dark Knight Rises,” horrified the nation.
Nor is it surprising that the families of most of those killed as well as the survivors and their relatives want him executed. And so it was that after meeting with them, George Brauchler, Arapaho County’s chief prosecutor, said, “It’s my determination and my intention that in this case, for James Eagan Holmes, justice is death.”
That’s one form of justice, certainly, the eye-for-an-eye kind. We hope the victims’ families will feel the satisfaction that can accompany vengeance if and when Mr. Holmes is executed. In a state that has executed just one person since the Supreme Court reinstated the death penalty in 1976, the wait for Mr. Holmes’ execution will be a long one, and the costs will be considerable.
And unnecessary. That’s because Mr. Holmes offered to plead guilty and accept life in prison if the state would agree not to seek the death penalty. He could have been dealt with relatively quickly and in a way that would prevent him from ever being a free man again. Such a sentence would amount to decades of torment for Mr. Holmes — if he isn’t executed by other inmates.
The prosecution refused his offer. It isn’t expected to have any trouble proving that Mr. Holmes committed the murders; he surrendered to police minutes after the massacre. Still, given the defense’s intent to enter an insanity plea if the prosecution rejected Mr. Holmes’ guilty plea, the prosecution will have to prove that Mr. Holmes was sane when he committed the murders.
Evidence of premeditation should bolster the prosecutor’s case against Mr. Holmes’ insanity arguments, but strange things happen during trials.
Still, given the scope of the crime, it’s easy to envision Mr. Holmes being sentenced to death. But it’s not as easy to see his eventual execution — Colorado uses lethal injection — bringing much peace to the loved ones of those he killed.