University of Houston Law Professor David R. Dow writes, "Death Penalty Is The Wrong Punishment For James Holmes," for the Daily Beast.
“Justice is death.”
With those three words, Arapahoe County District Attorney George Brauchler attempted on Monday to justify his decision to seek the death penalty for James Holmes, who is charged with murdering twelve people and injuring 58 more in a movie theatre in Aurora, Colo., last July.
Any human being who loves someone else can understand the impulse to see a murderer put to death. A version of that impulse explains why some loved ones of Holmes’s victims urged the district attorney to seek death; and it is precisely that impulse that explains why those survivors claim they cannot wait to witness Holmes’s execution.
But that impulse is an emotion, not a reason, and while it is easy to understand why many people have it, Brauchler should know the difference between a raw feeling and a reasoned argument. By ignoring that distinction, he has not only perverted the meaning of justice; he has insured that those who lost loved ones on that terrible night last July will have to keep reliving the horror, and looking at the face of the killer, for years to come.
Slate's Explainer posts "Capital Decision: James Holmes’ prosecutors will seek the death penalty. How do they decide that?" It's by Brian Palmer.
Prosecutors announced Monday that they would seek the death penalty against James Holmes, who is accused of killing 12 people in a Colorado movie theater in July. The district attorney contacted 800 people affected—victims and their family members—before making the decision. What factors do prosecutors consider when deciding whether to seek death?
Number of victims, money, public opinion, and perhaps race. There is a formal layer and an informal layer to a prosecutor’s decision to seek the death penalty. He first must establish that the case involves one of the state’s aggravating factors, which are supposed to separate ordinary murders from the exceptionally bad. James Holmes clearly satisfied two of Colorado’s 17 aggravating factors: He killed multiple victims and put bystanders at risk. Formal eligibility, however, is a low bar. A 1997 study concluded that seven out of eight first-degree murders in California between 1988 and 1992 included at least one aggravating factor, but prosecutors pursue capital punishment in only a small fraction of eligible cases. Whether a prosecutor will actually seek the death penalty depends more on local political culture, office resources, and personal opinion than on statutory considerations. Statistical analyses also suggest that unconstitutional factors such as race and gender are involved.
Earlier coverage from Colorado begins at the link.