James Holmes's court filing about guilty-plea offer a publicity ploy, prosecution says
Update by Melanie Asmar: Was James Holmes's court filing stating that he was willing to plead guilty to avoid the death penalty a publicity stunt?
Photos, documents below.
That's the allegation being made by prosecutors in a response to Holmes's filing (on view below). The filing, they wrote, "appears to be an attempt to deliberately prejudice the public, witnesses and victims against the People." Furthermore, they say there is not "an actual or unqualified 'offer' to plead guilty" on the table, and that a plea bargain would be "extremely unlikely."
On Wednesday, attorneys for accused Aurora theater shooter Holmes filed a "Notice in Response to This Court's Scheduling Order" (on view below) stating that prior to Holmes's arraignment on March 12, he "made an offer to the prosecution to resolve this case by pleading guilty and spending the rest of his life in prison, without any opportunity for parole."
The notice went on to say that prosecutors had not accepted the offer because they may decide to seek the death penalty. "Consequently, it appears the only impediment to a resolution of this case would be if the prosecution chooses to seek the death penalty," Holmes's lawyers wrote. "If the prosecution elects not to pursue the death penalty, then it is Mr. Holmes's position that this case could be resolved on April 1."
In their response, prosecutors disagreed with those assertions. While they acknowledged that Holmes's lawyers have stated that their client is "interested in being offered the opportunity to plead guilty," they say his lawyers have also refused to "provide specific access to information" that would allow prosecutors "to fully assess the Defendant and his alleged acts for purposes of determining a just outcome in this case."
"There is not -- and never has been -- an actual or unqualified 'offer' to plead guilty without response by the People as has been misstated in the Notice," they wrote.
The Century 16 theater in Aurora, where the crime occurred, before a recent remodel.
In addition, prosecutors called a plea bargain in the case "extremely unlikely based on the present information available to the prosecution," something they say they've "repeatedly" told Holmes's lawyers.
Prosecutors also argue it was "grossly improper" for the defense to mention a possible plea bargain in its notice at all. They say they "question whether this language was included...in good faith, or whether it was a calculated attempt to improperly inject the issue of the purported defense 'offer' into the public discourse regarding the case."
They note that a "search on Google News at 8:30 a.m. on March 28, 2013 shows that over a hundred news sources" -- including Westword -- "have published stories indicating that the defendant is willing to plead guilty.
"The only conclusion that an objective reader would reach by reading the stories...is that the defendant knows that he is guilty, the defense attorneys know that he is guilty, and that both of them know that he was not criminally insane," prosecutors wrote.
Furthermore, they wrote that they believe State Public Defender Doug Wilson violated the gag order in the case by speaking to the Associated Press about Holmes's lawyers' filing. An AP story paraphrases remarks by Wilson, including that prosecutors haven't responded to the defense's offer to plead guilty and that he didn't know whether prosecutors had relayed the offer to victims as required by state law.
In their response, prosecutors note that the law says they must consult with victims if they are contemplating making a plea offer; it does not require prosecutors to consult victims if the defense makes such an offer -- unless prosecutors intend to take them up on it. "Obviously that has not occurred in this case," they wrote.
Prosecutors say Wilson's statement is especially offensive because they "have provided victim resources and access unmatched in any case known in the history of Colorado, and probably the history of the United States." Victims and family members of victims -- of which there are more than one thousand -- have "access to a full-time prosecutor who is an expert in the Victims' Rights Amendment," they add.
Before a hearing on Monday at which Arapahoe County District Attorney George Brauchler has said he will announce whether he's seeking the death penalty against Holmes, the DA himself "will have had direct contact and consulted with every victim related to the twelve murdered victims to specifically discuss their input on the possible dispositions of this case, including life without the possibility of parole and death," prosecutors wrote.
Prosecutors asked the judge to dismiss a motion filed by Holmes's lawyers seeking sanctions against whomever "leaked" information to a Fox News reporter back in July about the contents of a notebook Holmes mailed to a psychiatrist. The defense has subpoenaed that reporter, Jana Winter, to testify about her sources -- and that hearing is also scheduled to take place Monday. Though lawyers for Winters asked to postpone it, Arapahoe County District Court Judge William Sylvester ruled that the hearing will take place as scheduled. (That ruling is also on view below.)
"Both the improper Notice and Doug Wilson's improper comments to the Associated Press demonstrate that the defense does not come to the court with clean hands," prosecutors wrote. For the defense to ask for sanctions against the law enforcement sources who allegedly spoke to Winters while speaking to the AP themselves "would make a mockery of both the law and this Court's orders," they added.
But Sylvester denied prosecutors' request to drop the Fox News issue. In an order (on view below), he wrote that "the mere fact that a new or additional violation exists does not vindicate a previous violation."
Continue to read the court documents referenced above, as well as our original coverage of Holmes's filing about the possible plea deal.