When we learned the trial of accused movie theater shooter James Holmes could take as long as eight months, we were taken aback.

Wasn't this the case in which witnesses saw the shooter come in wearing body armor and heave hissing canisters of tear gas before opening fire?

This is the same case, is it not, in which Holmes was nabbed just outside the theater?

The defendant, in fact, has all but admitted he did it when he pleaded not guilty by reason of insanity to charges stemming from the massacre in which 12 theater patrons were killed and 58 wounded. The Colorado Supreme Court has ruled such pleas are “in the nature of confession and avoidance.”

What could possibly take eight months?

This June 4 file photo shows Aurora, Colo., theater shooting suspect James Holmes in court. His trial could last eight months, despite the large amount of
This June 4 file photo shows Aurora, Colo., theater shooting suspect James Holmes in court. His trial could last eight months, despite the large amount of evidence at hand. (Andy Cross/The Denver Post)

To be fair, the judge on the case said eight months was an outside estimate — one that potentially errs on the side of being too long.

We hope so. The expense of such a lengthy proceeding, in terms of dollars, anguish of surviving friends and family and disruption to jurors' lives, is enormous.

It would be avoided if George Brauchler, district attorney for Arapahoe County, had taken the death penalty off the table.

We said so at the time, when the defense made an offer — which prosecutors said was not an “unqualified” offer — to plead guilty in exchange for a sentence of life in prison without parole.

Regardless, we think justice would have been served by a lifetime behind bars, avoiding years of appeals.


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The issue now is whether Holmes had a mental defect that impacted his judgment to the extent that he could not tell right from wrong. It is prosecutors' burden to prove his sanity beyond a reasonable doubt.

Prosecutors have estimated the trial should take four to six months, which still sounds like a long time for a case in which there is so little that's actually in dispute.