"It is my determination and my intention that in this case, for James Eagan Holmes, justice is death," Brauchler said Monday in court.
In making that choice, Brauchler unfortunately rejected an offer from the defense that would have put Holmes behind bars until the day he died an offer that would have spared the public the painful spectacle of a long trial as well as the possibility that Holmes' attorneys might successfully pursue an insanity plea.
In other words, we think the decision was a mistake.
Ironically, the decision also means Holmes is likely to remain in the news for many years. If he is sentenced to death, his appeals will undoubtedly last into the 2020s at least and quite possibly into the 2030s.
And with every significant appeal, July's horrible events will be rehashed and Holmes will be front and center in the public eye again.
For reference, consider the case of Nathan Dunlap, convicted in 1996 for the 1993 murder of four at a restaurant in Aurora. Like Holmes' attorneys, Dunlap's lawyers reportedly offered a guilty plea to first-degree murder that would ensure he spent the rest of his life in prison if prosecutors would agree not to seek the death penalty.
"If Nathan Dunlap [had been permitted to] plead guilty to life without parole, he would have faded into obscurity years ago," defense attorney David Lane told 5280 magazine several years ago. "He'd be doing his life sentence without the possibility of parole. There would have been no trial that cost millions. There would have been no appellate process that's cost millions. He would have been another prisoner in the system."
Dunlap, in case you missed it, was in the news again not long ago after allegedly exhausting his appeals.
The theater shootings were so unique that perhaps Holmes would never quite become just another prisoner if allowed to plead guilty to first-degree murder and sentenced to life without parole. But there is no doubt that his notoriety will be renewed repeatedly for years to come if he ends up on death row.
The Denver Post, April 2