Forum

Death not fit for shooter

Editorials featured in the Forum section are solely the opinions of their individual authors.

At a midnight screening of The Dark Knight Rises in Aurora, Colo. on July 20, James Eagan Holmes killed 12 people and injured 58 others during a mass shooting. Holmes, dressed in a costume alluding to the Batman villain the Joker, set off tear gas grenades and shot into the audience with multiple firearms. His advance purchase of the guns and ammunition, as well as his chosen targets and costume, raised lingering questions over his sanity.

Prosecutors recently announced that they would seek the death penalty against Holmes. As there is the lingering question of Holmes’s mental state, and the Supreme Court ruled that the U.S. could not execute the mentally ill in Atkins v. Virginia, people will have to wait until well after February 2014 — when his trial is scheduled for — to see if the prosecutors' requests will be met.

Even though Holmes altered several people’s fates, the state of Colorado — as well as the Federal government — should not administer the death penalty, as it does more harm than good. Some people want Holmes to suffer the death penalty. However, a life in exchange for the lives lost would be stooping to his level.

Holmes probably knew that he could have died during his violent attack, but he did not. Death is not his worst fear. Instead of the death penalty, Holmes should serve a life-sentence in prison without parole. It is better for Holmes to live there for the rest of his life so that he can deal with the guilt of his violent actions. In prison, Holmes’ freedom is gone forever and he cannot harm anyone else. Additionally, according to The Economist, “administering the death penalty is even more expensive than keeping someone in prison for life.”

On average, a death row inmate spends at least 12 years in prison before death, according to USA Today. Thus, Holmes’ name will occasionally come on the news while he waits for execution if the prosecutors’ ultimate goal for Holmes is the death penalty.

Even more importantly, having Holmes’ name rarely appear in the news if he is in prison for the rest of his life will benefit the emotional health of families affected by the massacre and victims themselves.

On the other hand, extensive coverage will force families who lost loved ones and victims who were injured that night to relive the event. Particularly, if Holmes goes to the execution phase, the media will cover every detail of his life, from his last meal to how he will be killed. This media coverage will affect the families of victims, which is not beneficial for any of them emotionally.

By taking all of this into consideration, imposing the death penalty on Holmes is not worth it for society, especially for the victims and families affected by the tragedy he created.