Parents of James Holmes speak out, say he ‘is not a monster’ and should be spared from death penalty

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James Holmes

DENVER — For the first time since their son went on a killing spree by killing 12 people inside an Aurora movie theater on July 20, 2012, the parents of James Holmes have spoken out.

In a letter to the Denver Post, Robert and Arlene Holmes say their son “is not a monster. He is a human being gripped by a severe mental illness” who should be spared from the death penalty.

The Holmeses also wrote “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.”

“We wish that July 20, 2012, never happened,” they added.

They also say there is no need for a trial and the best thing for their son is for him to “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.”

The Holmes also said that before the shooting, their son “never harmed anyone and he had no criminal history.”

“We love our son, we have always loved him, and we do not want him to be executed. … A lengthy trial requires everyone to relive those horrible moments in time, causing additional trauma.”

More than 9,000 jury summonses were issued earlier this month and jury selection is scheduled to begin Jan. 20. Opening statements are expected in May or June.

Holmes has pleaded not guilty by reason of insanity to 166 charges of killing 12 people and injuring 70 in the shooting at the midnight showing of “The Dark Night Rises” at the Century Aurora 16 Multiplex Theater.

Those killed were Jonathan Blunk, A.J. Boik, Jesse Childress, Gordon Cowden, Jessica Ghawi, John Larimer, Matt McQuinn, Micayla Medek, Veronica Moser-Sullivan, Alex Sullivan, Alex Teves and Rebecca Wingo.

The full letter from Robert and Arlene Holmes:

As the parents of 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. 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, an international organization of family members of murder victims and family members of the executed, and the National Alliance on Mental Illness 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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