Theater shooting victims' families have mixed feelings on death penalty

Aurora DA to announce decision on death penalty

AURORA, Colo. - Family members of Aurora theater shooting victims have mixed feelings on whether the District Attorney should seek the death penalty against James Holmes.

"Is it gong to make anything better if he gets the death penalty? Probably not," said Jessica Watts, whose cousin, Jonathan Blunk, was killed in the mass shooting last July. "Because there's 12 people that are never coming back."

Over the last few weeks, Watts said the district attorney's office has been contacting her and other victims family members to gauge their positions on the ultimate punishment.

"I've been wavering, to be honest," said Watts. "It would be nice to spare us the pain of having to relive traumatic photos and testimony. But other people want to see hard-core justice brought down, and if it has to come down to it, the prosecution will definitely prove their case."

Last week, Holmes' defense attorneys indicated in court documents that Holmes could change his plea to guilty if prosecutors agree to life in prison without parole instead of the death penalty.

Dan Recht, a past president of the Colorado Criminal Defense Bar, said it is unlikely the district attorney will accept the plea at this point.

"I anticipate that (Monday) we are going to hear the prosecutor say that they are going to seek the death penalty," said Recht. "That doesn't mean they can't take the defense up on their proposed plea bargain in the future. That could still easily happen in the future."

Recht said that first, the prosecution will want more information on Holmes' mental state.

"If the defense can show Mr. Holmes was very mentally ill at the time or was insane at the time, then that increases dramatically the possibility of working out a plea bargain," said Recht.

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