Holmes' parents pen letter pleading for him to be spared from death penalty in theater shooting case

Survivor calls letter "a slap in the face"

AURORA, Colo. - James Holmes' parents are pleading for him to be spared the death penalty in his trial for killing 12 people and injuring dozens of others inside an Aurora movie theater. In fact, they urge that he be allowed to reach a plea deal and avoid a trial altogether.

"We love our son, we have always loved him and we do not want him to be executed," they write. "We also decry the need for a trial."

The letter, which was sent to 7NEWS after it was originally quoted by our partners at The Denver Post, is the first public statement from Robert and Arlene Holmes.

"Our family has not given interviews to the media because we do not want coverage of ourselves," they wrote. "We mourn the deaths and the serious injuries and emotional trauma of the others who were in the theater. The focus should be on the injured and their healing."

Holmes' parents assert that it would be morally wrong to condemn their son to death. They cite the Murder Victims' Families for Human Rights and the National Alliance on Mental Illness in support of their argument that the death penalty would be immoral.

The parents, who have frequently attended their son's hearings in Arapahoe County District Court, argue, "He is not a monster. He is a human being gripped by a severe mental illness."

Holmes entered a plea of not guilty by reason of insanity in the case and has been evaluated twice at a state mental hospital. The results of those evaluations have remained a secret.

If he is found not guilty by reason of insanity, Holmes could be sent to an institution for the mentally ill for the remainder of his life, according to his parents.

MORE | Previous coverage of the theater shooting case

But, with jury selection for Holmes' trial scheduled to begin in January, Holmes' parents also say a trial would unnecessarily force the community to "relive those horrible events at a trial the media has permission to televise."

MORE | Could you get jury duty in the Holmes trial?

They argue that a lengthy trial could be avoided if prosecutors accept a guilty plea and agree to a sentence of life in prison without the possibility of parole.  

"We believe the government should not pursue killing the mentally ill. The quest for a death sentence for our mentally ill son can stop today and everyone would be spared needless pain," the Holmes' said in an additional quote provided by their lawyer.

Shooting survivor calls parents' let a 'slap in the face'

Yet, shooting survivor Marcus Weaver called the parents' letter "a slap in the face" to victims of the theater attack.

"Did the Holmes' family forget, like, what their son did?" Weaver asked.

"What other penalty can you have for a person who walks into a theater at 12:20 with an AR-15 and several shotguns and handguns and shoots up an unarmed crowd?...Life or Death? What are we saying as a society if there is anything less than the death penalty?" he asked.

Weaver said Holmes' parents speaking out more than two years after the attack is too little, too late. "We're definitely shocked that they would wait so long to apologize," he said.

He said what happened on that night in July 2012 has forever changed people's lives.

"Mr. Holmes' intent and his family's wishes are, are far small to me compared to the hurt, the damage, the countless memories, horrible nightmares, waking up at two in the morning thinking about all these things that he has caused," Weaver said.

"As a person of faith I've forgiven him, we've moved on from that. But at the same there's no other penalty he deserves besides the death penalty," he stressed.

Weaver said he hopes the upcoming trial will also serve to expose issues like the death penalty, mental health and gun control to a national stage. 

"Trust me, we don't want to go to the trial either...But my hope is that it will begin closure for the many victims families and survivors still hurting," Weaver said. "When the trial actually starts you're going to see the evidence that will 100 percent show that not only was he sane, but he knew what he was doing."

Melisa Cowden, whose ex-husband, Gordon Cowden, was killed in the shooting called the parents' statement comical. She says she doubts Holmes is mentally ill.

Michelle Yi, spokeswoman for the 18th Judicial District, could not comment in detail. Instead she released this short statement: 

"Any comment by the prosecution at this time could negatively impact the fairness and integrity of the proceedings, which are scheduled to begin next month. Therefore we cannot respond to your inquiry at this time."

Coversheet from the Holmes' family lawyer:

December 19, 2014

For Immediate Release

Holmes Parents Wish to Avoid a Painful Trial

SAN DIEGO – Since July 2012, the parents of James Holmes have been asked to speak publicly. They have now released a statement. In a statement published in the Denver Post, Robert and Arlene Holmes of San Diego stated, “[w]e have spent every moment for more than two years thinking about those who were injured, and the families and friends of the deceased . . .” “A lengthy trial requires everyone to relive those horrible moments in time, causing additional trauma,” they said. They love their son and do not want him to be executed. Their son has been charged with murder and attempted murder following a shooting in Aurora, Colorado in 2012. He has entered a plea of Not Guilty By Reason of Insanity.

A trial could be avoided if prosecutors accept a plea of guilty with a sentence of life in prison without parole.

"We know the best outcome for our severely mentally ill son would be treatment for life in a psychiatric institution," said the parents.

"We will not rejoice over an outcome of life in prison. However, this outcome eliminates the need for a trial."

"We believe the government should not pursue killing the mentally ill. The quest for a death sentence for our mentally ill son can stop today and everyone would be spared needless pain."

The full text of their Denver Post statement is attached hereto. Any and all future contacts should be directed to Lisa Damiani at the address or telephone numbers above.

 

Letter from Holmes' parents:

We are Robert and Arlene Holmes and our son is James Holmes. We have spent every moment for more than two years thinking about those who were injured, and the families and friends of the deceased who were killed in the theater shooting in Aurora, Colorado. We are always praying for everyone in Aurora. We wish that July 20, 2012 never happened.

Our son pleaded not guilty by reason of insanity to the charges associated with these shootings.

Defense attorneys for our son first stated in open court in May 2013 that James was diagnosed in Colorado with a serious mental illness. Prior to July 20, 2012, he never harmed anyone and he had no criminal history. We understand that if our son is found not guilty by reason of insanity, he could go to an institution that provides treatment for the mentally ill for the remainder of his life. This result would prevent any future harm to him and others.

We realize treatment in an institution would be best for our son. We love our son, we have always loved him and we do not want him to be executed. We also decry the need for a trial. A lengthy trial requires everyone to relive those horrible moments in time, causing additional trauma. In the criminal justice system, the prosecution and defense can agree to a sentence of life in prison, without parole, in exchange for a guilty plea. 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.

We do not know how many victims of the theater shooting would like to see our son killed. But we are aware of people’s sentiments. We have read postings on the Internet that have likened him to a monster. He is not a monster. He is a human being gripped by a severe mental illness.

We believe that the death penalty is morally wrong, especially when the condemned is mentally ill.

We are not alone in our sentiments. The Murder Victims’ Families for Human Rights (MVFHR), an international organization of family members of murder victims and family members of the executed, and the National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI) formed the “Prevention, Not Execution Project” aimed at ending the death penalty for people with severe mental illness.

Our family has not given interviews to the media because we do not want coverage of ourselves. We mourn the deaths and the serious injuries and emotional trauma of the others who were in the theater. The focus should be on the injured and their healing.

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