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James Holmes: Will Colorado shooting suspect face death penalty? (+video)

James Holmes is being held on suspicion of first-degree murder, and the prosecutor is considering the death penalty for the only suspect in the Colorado movie theater shooting that left 12 dead and  58 wounded.

By Nicholas Riccardi and P. Solomon BandaAssociated Press / July 24, 2012

This photo combination shows a variety of facial expressions of James E. Holmes during his appearance at Arapahoe County District Court July 23, 2012, in Centennial, Colo. Holmes dyed his hair orange, apparently to appear like a character in the Batman movie. He is accused of killing 12 and wounding 58 in a shooting rampage in a movie theater on July 20 in Aurora, Colo.

(AP Photo/Denver Post, RJ Sangosti, Pool)


Centennial, Colo.

 With their anger and tears stirred by the sight of James Holmes in a courtroom with red hair and glassy eyes, the families of those killed in the Colorado theater massacre now must go home to plan their final goodbyes.

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James Holmes' accuracy in the Aurora, Colo. shooting was remarkable, raising the possibility he was practicing before allegedly carrying out the massacre, senior correspondent John Miller tells Charlie Rose and Erica Hill.

And Arapahoe County District Attorney Carol Chambers must decide in the next 60 days whether to seek the death penalty for Holmes.

Holmes is being held on suspicion of first-degree murder, and he could face additional counts of aggravated assault and weapons violations. Holmes has been assigned a public defender. He won't be formally charged until next Monday, and police expect months of working with behavioral analysts and scrutinizing Holmes' relationships to establish a motive. As for a trial, that could take more than a year, said Ms. Chambers.

Chambers said her office is considering the death penalty, but that a decision will be made in consultation with the victims' families.

IN PICTURES: Aftermath of the Colorado shooting

David Sanchez said that would be the appropriate punishment if Holmes is convicted. He said his pregnant daughter escaped without injury but her husband was shot and was in critical condition. His 21-year-old daughter, Katie Medley, was scheduled to deliver her baby at any time.

"When it's your own daughter and she escaped death by mere seconds, I want to say it makes you angry," Sanchez said. He said Medley and her husband, Caleb, 23, waited a year to watch the movie.

Chambers' office is responsible for the convictions of two of the three people on Colorado's death row. Chambers also is the only state district attorney to seek the death penalty in any case in the last five years, said Michael Radelet, a sociology professor at the University of Colorado at Boulder who tracks death penalty cases.

Colorado uses the death penalty relatively sparingly. It has executed just one inmate since capital punishment was reinstated by the U.S. Supreme Court in 1976. The state legislature fell one vote short of abolishing the death penalty in 2009.

At a news conference in San Diego, where Holmes' family lives, their lawyer refused to answer questions about him and his relationship to the family. Lisa Damiani said later: "Everyone's concerned" about the possibility of the death penalty.

When asked if they stood by Holmes, Damiani said, "Yes, they do. He's their son."

Weeks before, Holmes quit a 35-student Ph.D. program in neuroscience for reasons that aren't clear. He had earlier taken an intense oral exam that marks the end of the first year but University of Colorado Denver officials would not say if he passed, citing privacy concerns.

University officials have refused to answer questions about Holmes.

"To the best of our knowledge at this point, we think we did everything that we should have done," Donald Elliman, the university chancellor, told reporters.

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