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Court Cases

Colorado gunman Holmes offers guilty plea for life

Lawyers for a man accused of shooting dead 12 people last July in a Colorado movie theater have offered to submit a guilty plea, if prosecutors don't seek the death penalty. James Holmes' plea hearing is set for Monday.

Attorneys representing Holmes said his trial could finish on the same day that it reopens next Monday if prosecutors accept their proposal. In exchange for ruling out the death penalty, Holmes' lawyers offered to submit a guilty plea and agree to life in prison without the possibility of parole.

"Mr. Holmes is currently willing to resolve the case to bring the proceedings to a speedy and definite conclusion for all involved," the lawyers wrote in a court filing submitted on Wednesday and first reported in local media. "It appears the only impediment to a resolution of this case would be if the prosecution chooses to seek the death penalty."

The death penalty is a legal option in Colorado, lethal injection is the only permitted method of capital punishment. Three people currently sit on death row, but the state has not executed anyone since 1979.

Lightning trial possible

The AP news agency said that prosecutors had declined comment, suggesting they would be likely to discuss the issue with victims and their families. The prosecution does not have to respond until the trial opens on Monday. Holmes would also be permitted to change his position before the trial, with not guilty by reason of insanity the most likely alternative plea.

At an arraignment hearing on March 12, defense lawyers said they were not ready to enter a plea - meaning Araphoe County District Judge William Sylvester issued a not guilty plea on Holmes' behalf.

Holmes faces 166 felony charges, most of them murder or attempted murder, for the July 20 attack at a movie theater in Aurora, Colorado. Twelve people were killed and 70 wounded in the shooting; the building was packed for a midnight premiere of the latest "Batman" movie. Witnesses said Holmes used smoke grenades and a variety of firearms.

msh/jr (AFP, dpa, Reuters)