Last week, the jury in the James Holmes case failed to reach a unanimous verdict to apply the death penalty in the Colorado theater shooting case. Under Colorado law, the consequence of the verdict is that the Court must impose a life sentence without the possibility of parole.
Tamara Brady, a Colorado State Public Defender who has extensive experience handling capital cases, has been co-lead counsel on his case from the outset and played a significant role in saving Holmes’ life. She delivered the closing argument for the defense in the death phase and made an impassioned plea for his life. As quoted in the Huffington Post, she stressed that “[t]he death of a seriously mentally ill man is not justice, no matter how tragic the case is. Please, no more death.”
When the verdict was read, Holmes remained stoic, as he was throughout the trial, but Fox News reported that when he returned to his seat after all of the verdict forms were read, he grabbed Brady’s hand and smiled and said, “Thank you”.
Additionally, the media reported that there was one juror firmly against a death sentence and two undecided jurors. In some states, unfortunately, a majority ruling from the jury can empower a judge to impose death, but in many states, such as Colorado, a unanimous verdict is required to do so. This was also the case in the Jodi Arias case which we discussed here.
The notion that “justice” rests in the hands of one juror in our criminal justice system is both a blessing and a curse. But when it comes to the death penalty, it serves as a powerful weapon against our system’s ultimate sentence. Cases like the Colorado theater shooting certainly test our beliefs about the death penalty. But in the end, we are all better served as a society and as humans with a result such as the one reached in this case.
I am always moved by the courage of one person standing up against an angry mob-like mentality convinced that the taking of a life will right the wrong of lives senselessly taken. I can’t imagine the kind of courage and strength that this single act of bravery requires. Not to mention the bravery of the Tamara Bradys of the world who give of themselves selflessly to fight for one of our society’s most loathed souls and to plead to save that life. Congrats to Tamara Brady and the entire team for fighting to save their client’s life against what seemed like insurmountable odds.