James Holmes had his plea deal rejected by Colorado prosecutors, increasing the likelihood that the accused Aurora movie theater gunman will face the death penalty.
In a document filed with the court, lawyers for the accused gunman had written that “Mr. Holmes is currently willing to resolve the case to bring the proceedings to a speedy and definite conclusion.”
In rejected the plea deal, prosecutors said they were not even willing to consider the offer to allow him to spend life in prison in exchange for not facing the death penalty.
“While the defense suggested that the defendant be allowed to plead guilty on his terms, the prosecution indicated that it could not even consider such an offer without specific additional information, which the defense refused to provide,” prosecutors wrote in their response Thursday to the plea from Holmes.
Prosecutors added that the plea offer from James Holmes seemed to be intended to generate “predictable pretrial publicity.” But other legal experts see it more as a last-ditch attempt to save Holmes from the death penalty.
“In Colorado, the death penalty is still the law and prosecutors have been reserving it for the worst of the worst,” Denver defense attorney and former prosecutor Karen Steinhauser told ABC News. “Most people would agree that if you’re going to have a death penalty, this case represents the worst of the worst.”
Holmes is accused of killing 12 people and wounding at least 58 others when he opened fire in a movie theater playing a midnight show of The Dark Knight Rises. He faces 166 counts of murder and attempted murder.
At a hearing on March 12, Holmes’ lawyers declined to enter a plea, prompting a judge to enter a not-guilty plea on his behalf to keep the case moving forward.
Now that James Holmes had his plea deal rejected, his lawyers could decide to seek an insanity defense. A pretrial motion by his defense team aimed to have the state’s insanity defense law thrown out on the basis that it placed an undue burden on them to share evidence, but it was rejected by a Colorado judge.