Colorado Movie Theater Massacre: Charges
Holmes faces 164 counts of murder and attempted murder for his role in the Colorado Movie Theater Massacre. He is charged with 24 counts of murder for the 12 people who were killed — two charges per victim. The first charge is a first degree premeditated murder charge, the second charge is first degree murder by means of extreme indifference to human life, that is, by creating a situation so dangerous that people were likely to die.
He also is charged with 140 counts of attempted murder for the other movie theater patrons, even those who were not injured, because his alleged actions were dangerous enough that he could have caused the deaths of many — for example, even if he had not shot someone, a person could have died from trampling in the chaos, from a fatal reaction to tear gas, or from a heart attack or stroke due to the stress of the attack. An additional ten charges were added in September 2013 to account for movie theater patrons in the adjacent theater who were exposed to gunfire.
Prosecutors are seeking the death penalty and have rejected a defense offer for life in prison without the possibility of parole. Holmes pleaded not guilty by reason of insanity, which under Colorado law means he acknowledges committing the acts but believes he wasn’t responsible because he couldn’t tell right from wrong. If Holmes is convicted of murder, he could be sentenced to execution – which prosecutors want – or to life in prison without the possibility of parole. If he’s found not guilty by reason of insanity, he would be committed indefinitely to the state mental hospital. That means if he were some day declared to be sane, he could be released, although that will be unlikely.
Under Colorado law, the jury will determine whether Holmes was sane or insane. If they find he is guilty, they will decide on the sentence – death, or life without parole. The judge seated 12 jurors, plus 12 alternates who would replace any jurors who had to be dismissed for health or other reasons. All 24 will not know if they are jurors or alternates until deliberations are about to begin. A that point, the remaining alternates will be dismissed.
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