CENTENNIAL, Colo. (AP) — After a week of legal twists and turns, James Holmes will find out Monday if he could face execution if convicted in the Colorado theater attack that killed 12 people.
Behind-the-scenes maneuvering erupted into a public quarrel between prosecutors and the defense over Holmes' public offer to plead guilty, but the two sides could still come to an agreement that would spare Holmes's life in exchange for spending the rest of his life in prison.
"Even if they give notice on Monday that they are seeking the death penalty, they can come off that and enter into a plea bargain any time," said attorney Dan Recht, a past president of the Colorado Criminal Defense Bar.
As the tangled and bloody case returns to court, survivors and families of the victims are uncertain about what happens next.
If the case goes to trial, "all of us victims would be dragged along potentially for years," said 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.
Holmes is accused of a meticulously planning and brutally executing a plan to attack a Colorado movie theater at midnight during a showing of the latest Batman movie, killing 12 people and injuring 70.
Defense lawyers revealed in a court filing last week that Holmes would plead guilty if prosecutors allowed him to live out his days in prison with no chance of parole instead of having him put to death.
That prompted an angry response from prosecutors, who called it an attempt to gin up public support for a plea deal.