Theater shooter’s parents plead for his life
DENVER (AP) — The parents of James Holmes pleaded Friday for his life to be spared if he is convicted of killing 12 people and injuring 70 others after opening fire in a Colorado movie theater.
The plea incensed some survivors of the attack and relatives of people killed. They questioned the timing of the parents’ statement around the holidays, just weeks before the trial of Holmes is set to begin.
Robert and Arlene Holmes said in their statement released to the media that their son is mentally ill and they do not want him to be executed.
“He is not a monster. He is a human being gripped by a severe mental illness,” they wrote.
Melisa Cowden, whose ex-husband Gordon Cowden was killed in the shooting, called the statement comical and said she is upset that Holmes’ parents have not apologized for what happened.
“He’s not mentally ill,” Cowden said.
Marcus Weaver who was shot in the arm and had a friend killed in the attack, asked why the parents waited three years to make their plea at Christmastime.
“People are hurting,” he said, calling the statement a ploy by defense lawyers to manipulate the jury pool and generate “sympathy for a man who has done a horrific thing.”
“For his parents to send us an apology letter three years later is an insult,” Weaver said. “It would have been better if they had said nothing at all.”
Prosecutors, who are under a gag order, declined to comment, saying it would hurt the fairness and integrity of the trial.
Holmes has pleaded not guilty by reason of insanity to the charges filed after the 2012 attack at the theater in Aurora, outside Denver. Jury selection is scheduled to start Jan. 20.
His parents, who live in Rancho Penasquitos, California, say they want to avoid a traumatic trial. One option would be a deal that calls for a guilty plea in exchange for a sentence of life in prison without parole, they said.
“If that happened, our son would be in prison the rest of his life, but no one would have to relive those horrible events at a trial the media has permission to televise,” the parents wrote.
They say the best option would be sending their son to an institution for the mentally ill, which could happen if he is found not guilty by reason of insanity.
Holmes’ parents say they have spent every moment since the shooting thinking about the victims and their families and friends.
“We are always praying for everyone in Aurora. We wish that July 20, 2012, never happened,” they wrote.
The statement was the first public comment by Holmes’ parents about the shooting since they made brief comments through a lawyer expressing support for their son immediately after the attack.
They have not disclosed details of their son’s condition or whether they had any warning that he might become violent.
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