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Colorado prosecutors have rejected James Holmes' proposed plea bargain and will seek the death penalty against the accused movie theater shooter.
Holmes, 25, allegedly shot and killed 12 people in a movie theater in Aurora, Colorado, in July. Holmes' legal team had offered to plead guilty to the crime in exchange for life imprisonment, reports The New York Times.
But after consulting with the victims and their relatives, prosecutors rejected the proposed plea deal and announced they will seek the death penalty. This may be a risky legal maneuver, however, as prosecutors may have a difficult time combating a likely insanity defense by Holmes' legal team.
Although Holmes has not yet entered an insanity plea, his lawyers have called him mentally ill, reports the Times. Holmes had been seeing a University of Colorado psychiatrist shortly before the shootings.
Generally, someone convicted of first-degree murder in Colorado could face the death penalty. First-degree murder can include a murder in which the killer acted deliberately and with the intent to cause the death of another person.
But since intent and deliberation are necessary elements of the crime, someone using the insanity defense may be able to beat the charges by proving that the defendant did not have the mindset to commit the crime. For example, this can include the defendant not understanding that what he did was wrong at the time he committed the crime.
If Holmes is able to successfully utilize the insanity defense, this will not mean that he will walk free. Instead, he will likely have to serve his sentence in a mental hospital or psychiatric ward. If at some point he is well enough to leave the mental hospital, he may have serve out the remainder of the sentence in prison.
Though prosecutors today rejected James Holmes' plea offer, it's still possible that another plea deal could be reached. His trial date is now set for February 2014, USA Today reports.