CRIME
04/01/2013 11:21 am ET Updated Apr 01, 2013

James Holmes Death Penalty: Prosecutors To Seek Capital Punishment For Accused Aurora Theater Shooter

Prosecutors in Colorado sent a clear message to James Holmes and his defense team on Monday: Only the ultimate punishment will suffice.

George Brauchler, the Arapahoe County district attorney, said that the state would pursue the death penalty for the alleged shooter in the Aurora movie theater massacre.

Brauchler said that his office reached out to more than 800 victims and family members to make a decision.

"It's my determination and my intention that in this case for James Eagan Holmes justice is death," Brauchler told the court.

The announcement wraps up days of maneuvering between the prosecution and defense attorneys.

In a court document released Thursday, prosecutors rejected the defense offer of a plea deal for life in prison without parole. At the time, prosecutors insisted that the defense denied the state information necessary to complete a comprehensive evaluation of Holmes and his alleged acts, making it "extremely unlikely" that a plea deal would be reached, according to court documents.

The prosecution also argued that defense lawyers acted in bad faith by making the offer in a public court filing. Brauchler suggested that the motion, filed Wednesday, violated the case gag order, characterizing the move as "unusual and unprecedented."

Still, the door remains open that attorneys could reach a plea deal that would send Holmes to prison for life. The defense is expected to argue that Holmes is not guilty by reason of insanity.

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Holmes, 25, faces 166 charges of murder and attempted murder for the massacre at a screening of The Dark Knight Rises that left 12 people dead and another 58 injured last July.

Colorado has executed one person since the Supreme Court reinstated the death penalty in 1977. The state currently has three individuals on death row, all residing in Arapahoe County.

Victims and their families have expressed a "mix of emotions" surrounding Holmes' fate, the Denver Post reported last week. Several relatives expressed their wishes -- some calling for the death penalty, others for life in prison -- in private meetings with the prosecution.

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