Colorado judge rebuffs death penalty challenges in theater massacre case

DENVER Fri May 30, 2014 10:19pm EDT

James Holmes sits in court for an advisement hearing at the Arapahoe County Justice Center in Centennial, Colorado June 4, 2013. REUTERS/Andy Cross/Pool

James Holmes sits in court for an advisement hearing at the Arapahoe County Justice Center in Centennial, Colorado June 4, 2013.

Credit: Reuters/Andy Cross/Pool

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DENVER (Reuters) - A Colorado judge overseeing the murder case against the gunman charged with killing 12 moviegoers has denied the latest efforts by defense lawyers to have the state’s death penalty law ruled unconstitutional, court documents show.

Arapahoe County District Court Judge Carlos Samour said on Friday the issues raised in three separate motions filed by lawyers for James Holmes about the lack of a grand jury indictment have already been litigated, and the law has been upheld by both state and federal higher courts.

Holmes, 26, is accused of murder and attempted murder for opening fire in a suburban Denver cinema in July 2012, killing 12 moviegoers and injuring 70 during a screening of the Batman film “The Dark Knight Rises.”

Holmes has pleaded not guilty by reason of insanity. His lawyers have acknowledged he was the sole gunman, but they say the onetime neuroscience graduate student suffers from a chronic mental illness.

Prosecutors have said they will seek the death penalty if he is convicted. Public defenders have filed a flurry of motions seeking to have Colorado’s death penalty law declared unconstitutional, all rejected by Samour.

The latest challenges centered on three different theories for why, because a grand jury indictment was not handed down against Holmes, he should not be executed.

Holmes's attorneys argued not obtaining a grand jury indictment in the death penalty case violates two separate sections of the U.S. Constitution and also the Colorado constitution, but the judge rejected those arguments.

“Because the defendant’s motion is directly contradicted by precedent from the United States Supreme Court and the Colorado Supreme Court, it fails,” Samour wrote in one of the orders. “Accordingly, it is denied without a hearing as devoid of merit.”

The trial is set to begin in October.

(Editing by Alex Dobuzinskis and Mohammad Zargham)

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Comments (2)
MonitorLizard wrote:
Mr. Holmes didn’t give his victims the option of life. And pleading the insanity defense? His actions were well planned. Some people with serious psychiatric disorders aren’t organized enough to tie their own shoes, sorry to say, unlike Mr. neuroscience graduate student Holmes.

May 31, 2014 9:34am EDT  --  Report as abuse
ArribaJuarez wrote:
Good for the judge and shame on the lawyers for considering that the blatant murder of twelve individuals does not warrant the severest penalty allowed. He currently should be on death row awaiting his last meal. Not everyone is allowed a defense from death, just ask the twelve victims as to what defense that they had.

May 31, 2014 3:14pm EDT  --  Report as abuse
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