DA: Holmes Case 'Not a Slam Dunk'

Death penalty will come down to suspect's sanity
By Matt Cantor,  Newser Staff
Posted Jul 24, 2012 7:46 AM CDT
Updated Jul 24, 2012 7:58 AM CDT
DA: Holmes Case 'Not a Slam Dunk'
Lisa Damiani, an attorney and spokesperson for the parents of alleged Colorado mass murderer James Holmes, speaks at a news conference Monday, July 23, 2012 in San Diego.   (AP Photo/Lenny Ignelzi)

Don't expect a quick resolution to James Holmes' court case: It's "not a slam dunk," says district attorney Carol Chambers. "In a case like this, the investigation doesn’t stop. It will continue right up to the trial," she noted. Prosecutors will decide "within 60 days of the arraignment" whether to seek the death penalty, the Los Angeles Times reports, but the trial itself will begin within the next year.

But pity Holmes' public defenders, notes the Denver Post, who have few options other than an insanity defense. "You just have to imagine that there is something in his psychiatric makeup," says a former DA. "I don't know what the hell else they are going to say." A competency hearing will determine whether Holmes can stand trial, and in the end it all comes down to what's inside his head: calculating killer or crazed madman. If he's sane, the death penalty is a no-brainer; a successful insanity defense, though, could take it off the table. Regardless, public pressure for an execution will be immense. "If you don't pursue the death penalty in this case, you may as well throw away the statute," says another former DA. (Read more James Holmes stories.)

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