In Colorado, James Holmes has been convicted of multiple counts of capital murder. He’s the bug-eyed killer who burst into a crowded movie theater in 2012, threw tear gas, then started shooting, killing 12 people and wounding 70. The carnage he caused has been recounted, with lasting horror, by some of the survivors at his trial.
But now we are hearing emotional testimony from James Holmes’ mother. She says she thought she had a “good kid” who was self-sufficient and responsible, although she was saddened and guilty that he was “losing his joy” as he grew into adulthood. She says she never knew that her son was so mentally ill that he was capable of random mass murder. And other family members, teachers, and friends have testified about Holmes being a happy boy, a “Renaissance child,” and a nerdy teenager.
It’s all part of the “mitigation phase” of the trial, where the jury will decide whether Holmes should receive the death penalty for his appalling crimes. His lawyers want the jury to feel sorry for him and his family and to conclude that the shootings didn’t occur because Holmes was intrinsically evil, but because he was mentally “sick.” And so the jury has been listening to witness after witness testify about Holmes in a way designed to encourage jurors to show mercy — even though he didn’t show mercy to those innocents he gunned down.
I’m opposed to the death penalty on principle, so I don’t need to be convinced that Holmes should receive life in prison. However, I think this phase of the Holmes trial aptly illustrates another reason why the death penalty should be abolished. It is simply unfair to put the families of the victims through a process where they have to hear that the person who ruthlessly killed their loved ones was once an outgoing “Renaissance child” or an uncoordinated teenage nerd, and it is unseemly to call his Mom and Dad to the stand to shed a few tears to try to save their little boy’s skin.
A process that is designed to curry sympathy for the killer, by recalling his boyhood and moments where he laughed or cried or kicked a soccer ball, is senseless and offensive because whatever his meager childhood accomplishments may have been shrivel to nothingness against the magnitude of his adult crimes. Don’t try to make me feel sorry for James Holmes. I feel sorry for the victims and their families for the loss that Holmes inflicted. Lock him away, and be done with it.