The Sunday Denver Post published OpEds on the question, "Should prosecutors seek death penalty for Aurora theater shooting suspect James Holmes?" Here's the beginning of each:
Denver criminal defense attorney David Lane wrote, "No. Justice is not fueled by anger."
In the aftermath of the Aurora shootings, we now confront the issue of what to do with the perpetrator. Justice, fortunately, is not fueled by anger. How we deal with both the victims and the perpetrator are intertwined, and both unflinchingly reflect our humanity, or lack thereof, as a society.
It will ultimately be beyond dispute that James Holmes was suffering from schizophrenia. The court will send him to the state hospital in Pueblo to be exhaustively examined by trained psychiatric staff. Their mission will be to determine whether he understands the charges and can assist in his own defense. If not, he will be medicated until he is competent — sometimes known as "synthetic sanity."
If the death penalty is designed to kill the worst of the worst, clearly a seriously mentally ill man does not fit the definition even though his crime was atrocious. Murder fueled by schizophrenia lacks the same moral culpability as murder fueled by money. Only recently, this country stopped executing juveniles and those with mental retardation, even though their crimes are hideous, even though they are competent to proceed nor legally insane. We exempted these classes of perpetrators from execution because what we do to the least among us speaks volumes of who we are as a society. Are we bloodthirsty enough to kill a severely mentally ill man?
Former prosecutor Craig Silverman writes, "Yes. It is lawful and appropriate."
It is lawful and appropriate to seek the death penalty for James Holmes. Failure to pursue his execution could effectively end capital punishment in Colorado.
Death penalty opponents such as The Denver Post and Colorado's Public Defenders understand their challenge and opportunity. They will decry and fight any effort to execute Holmes. If successful, they will next argue that Holmes' exemption means that no slayer of fewer people should suffer the ultimate punishment.
Nathan Dunlap is up next in the segregated, small and slow-moving line that is Colorado's death row. In 1993, Dunlap shot five employees of an Aurora Chuck E. Cheese restaurant. Four died.
Dunlap is black. So are the only two other condemned Colorado prisoners. If Holmes, a white man, does not join them, the objection will be obvious. Why does this Caucasian perpetrator of one of America's worst mass shootings escape execution but others do not?
Earlier coverage from Colorado begins at the link.