CENTENNIAL, Colo. (Reuters) - A woman protesting against capital punishment stood up in court on Thursday and shouted “Don’t kill him!” before bailiffs tackled her during the penalty phase of James Holmes’ mass murder trial in Colorado.
She was ordered jailed for three weeks for her outburst.
The disturbance by spectator Deborah Cave came as the district attorney addressed jurors who will ultimately decide whether Holmes, convicted of fatally shooting 12 people in a movie theater in 2012, will be sentenced to death or life in prison without parole.
“Don’t kill him! He’s wrong. It is mental illness!” Caves cried as she climbed over rows of seats toward Holmes, 27, in the crowded courtroom at the Arapahoe County Justice Center on the outskirts of Denver.
She was subdued by two sheriff’s deputies and dragged into the hall where she continued to shriek. Holmes registered no visible reaction.
After closing arguments in the penalty proceedings concluded and the jury and defendant had left the courtroom, Judge Carlos Samour ordered Cave brought before him, her hands cuffed to a chain at her waist.
He said he was holding her in contempt of court, noting deputies had cautioned her about how to behave when she attended the trial earlier in the week.
Speaking in her own defense, Cave said she filed a friend-of-the-court motion in 2013 that was denied. She also told the judge she sent a photograph of herself to “Jim” in jail, presumably referring to Holmes, but police returned it. Officials and strangers had harassed her at the court, she said.
“What you did was extremely serious and extremely improper and it is extremely offensive to the authority and dignity of the court,” the judge told her.
“It offends me, as a human being, that other human beings kill each other, legally!” Cave shouted back, banging on the podium.
“You can’t justify murder with murder!” she yelled as she was led away.
Holmes’ mother, Arlene, burst into tears after the woman was removed from court. Cave was also charged with misdemeanor assault stemming from her scuffled with deputies.
The jury has already found Holmes guilty of killing 12 people and wounding 70 during his shooting spree at a midnight screening of the Batman film “A Dark Knight Rises” in the Denver suburb of Aurora.
They have also determined that aggravating factors were proved which could justify the death penalty, unless the defense can persuade them that mitigating factors are more important.
Reporting by Keith Coffman; Writing by Daniel Wallis; Editing by Steve Gorman and Cynthia Osterman