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Pursuing Death Penalty Case Risky In James Holmes Trial

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James Holmes in court on March 12, 2013 (credit: CBS)

James Holmes in court on March 12, 2013 (credit: CBS)

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CENTENNIAL, Colo. (CBS4)- CBS4’s legal analyst says pursuing a death penalty case in the James Holmes murder trial could be risky for both the defense and prosecution.

Holmes has been charged in the Aurora theater shooting that killed 12 people and left 58 others injured. He allegedly opened fire in a crowded movie theater during a midnight showing of “Batman: The Dark Knight Returns” at the Century 16 theater on July 20, 2012.

Now Holmes defense team said he is ready to plead guilty if the Arapahoe County District Attorney will agree to spare his life and remove the death penalty.

Some victims and their families hope the plea agreement will be accepted because they don’t want to witness a long, drawn out trial. Others want to keep the death penalty punishment on the table.

CBS4 legal analyst Karen Steinhauser said the move isn’t unusual.

“What the defense attorneys are trying to do in any potential death penalty case or case where the death penalty is already being sought is first and foremost to save their client’s life,” said Steinhauser.

The sentence sought by the DA would be life without the possibility of parole. Pursuing the death penalty could be risky for both sides.

“You don’t know what the jury is going to do from the defense on a not guilty by reason of insanity plea, you don’t know what the doctors are going to say, you don’t know what the jury is going to do,” said Steinhauser.

The filing from the defense states Holmes is willing to resolve the case to bring the proceedings to a “speedy and definite conclusion.”

Steinhauser said the alternative could take months for a trial to play out in court and years for a death sentence to be carried out.

The prosecution will have to take into account what the public wants.

“What are the wishes of the victims, what are the wishes of the victim’s families,” said Steinhauser.

The next court hearing where prosecutors are expected to decide if they’ll seek the death penalty is April 1.

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