But the prospect of a longer legal battle troubled others such as Pierce O’Farrill, who was shot three times.
“It could be 10 or 15 years before he’s executed. I would be in my 40s and I’m planning to have a family, and the thought of having to look back and reliving everything at that point in my life, it would be difficult,” he said.
Legal observers said Holmes’ lawyers publicly offered a guilty plea in what may have been a bid to gain support among victims’ families for a deal that would spare them a painful trial and lengthy appeals.
The prosecution and the defense could still reach a deal before the case goes to trial.
Holmes’ lawyers have indicated in court papers that they may instead pursue a defense of not guilty by reason of insanity. But that carries great risk: Prosecutors could argue that Holmes methodically planned his attack, casing the theater, stockpiling weapons and booby-trapping his apartment with explosives.
The judge newly assigned to the case, Carlos Samour Jr., warned defense lawyers that if they want to change Holmes’ plea, the longer they wait the harder it will be to convince him to accept it.
If Holmes is found not guilty by reason of insanity, he will be sent to the state mental hospital, then returned to prison after treatment.
Colorado has three people on death row but has executed just one person over the past 45 years, in 1997.
Samour is also considering whether a New York-based Fox News reporter should have to testify about how she obtained confidential information about Holmes.
Jana Winter cited anonymous law enforcement officials in reporting that Holmes had sent a psychiatrist a notebook of drawings that foreshadowed the attack. Holmes’ lawyers want to know who told Winter about the notebook, arguing that that person violated a gag order.