Holmes DA wants to limit death penalty testimony
CENTENNIAL — Prosecutors in the Colorado theater shootings have asked the judge not to allow testimony about state execution procedures if James Holmes is convicted of first-degree murder.
The district attorney’s office filed a series of pre-emptive motions released Monday that seek to limit what witnesses can say during the sentencing phase if Holmes is convicted and jurors are left to decide if he should be executed.
Holmes is accused of opening fire in a theater full of people watching a Batman movie in suburban Denver in July 2012, killing 12 and wounding 70. He pleaded not guilty by reason of insanity to multiple charges of murder and attempted murder.
Prosecutors are seeking the death penalty. Under Colorado law, that means if the jury convicts Holmes of first-degree murder, the same jury decides whether he should be executed or sentenced to life without the possibility of parole.
Colorado uses lethal injection for executions, although questions have been raised about whether the chemicals prescribed by law are available.
In motions filed Friday and made public Monday, prosecutors also asked the judge to bar testimony during the sentencing phase about how Holmes’ family and friends would be affected if he is executed, and what prison is like for inmates serving life without parole — apparently hoping to keep the defense from trying to convince jurors that prison would be harsh for Holmes and they wouldn’t be letting him off easy if they send him there.
Prosecutors also asked the judge to bar the defense from trying to raise doubts in jurors’ minds during the sentencing phase about whether Holmes should have been convicted.
Also Monday, a judge ordered Fox News reporter Jana Winter to return to court in September for possible questioning about her confidential sources for a story about Holmes.
Winter, who is based in New York, appeared in court so the judge could extend her subpoena until the Sept. 30 hearing.
Holmes’ attorneys want to know who told Winter that before the shootings, Holmes sent a psychiatrist a notebook containing violent drawings.
Defense lawyers contend the leak violated a gag order. They also say police officers may have undermined their credibility as witnesses if they lied when they denied being Winter’s source.
Winter has said she won’t identify her sources. That could result in a jail sentence for contempt of court if the judge decides her testimony would be relevant.
Winter is awaiting a decision by a New York state appeals court challenging a lower court judge’s decision to enforce the Colorado subpoena. If she wins the appeal, the subpoena would have no force and she wouldn’t have to testify.
Holmes was not in court Monday. Authorities won’t say whether he is at the state mental health hospital in Pueblo undergoing a mandatory sanity evaluation.