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March 29, 2013

Prosecutors not ready to agree to Holmes plea

DENVER — Prosecutors in the Colorado theater shooting on Thursday rejected an offer from suspect James Holmes to plead guilty in exchange for avoiding the death penalty and accused defense lawyers of a serious breach of court rules by making the offer public.

In a scathing court document, prosecutors said the defense has repeatedly refused to give them the information they need to evaluate the plea offer, so the offer can’t be considered genuine.

No plea agreement exists, prosecutors said, and one “is extremely unlikely based on the present information available to the prosecution.”

They also said anyone reading news stories about the offer would inevitably conclude “the defendant knows that he is guilty, the defense attorneys know that he is guilty, and that both of them know that he was not criminally insane.”

Neither the defense nor the prosecution immediately returned phone calls Thursday.

Holmes is charged with multiple counts of murder and attempted murder in the July 20 shootings in a packed theater in the Denver suburb of Aurora. Twelve people were killed and 70 were injured.

Holmes’ attorneys disclosed in a court filing Wednesday that their client has offered to plead guilty, but only if he wouldn’t be executed.

Prosecutors criticized defense attorneys for publicizing the offer, calling it a ploy meant to draw the public and the judge into what should be private plea negotiations.

Prosecutors did not say what information the defense refused to give them, but the two sides have argued in court previously about access to information about Holmes’ mental health.

Karen Steinhauser, a former prosecutor who is now a law professor at the University of Denver, said prosecutors clearly do not want to agree to a plea deal without knowing whether Holmes’ attorneys could mount a strong mental health defense.

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