Aurora shooting prosecutor screws up

Arapahoe County District Attorney George Brauchler announced this morning that he’s pursuing the death penalty for alleged (I use this word loosely) Aurora theater mass murderer James Holmes.

Holmes’s attorneys had agreed to a plea deal in which he would spend life in prison without the possibility of parole.

Life without parole essentially ends your life from any practical perspective. No sandy beaches, no mountain hikes, no productive career, no kids, no grandchildren. An hour outside a day. You get to breathe, eat and drink, but you’re basically dead, and society is safe with you behind bars.

Prosecutor George Brauchler made a lousy decision (Photo Ed Andrieski/AP)

The death penalty literally ends your life, of course. But in this case it drags the details of the case out for the world to see, opening old wounds, delaying the healing process, costing a fortune (the judge who has had the case thus far has dismissed himself, citing a lack of time), making us all look barbaric and stupid in the eyes of Europe and beyond. The only ones who benefit are prosecutors such as Brauchler, who can advance their careers by bragging about ending the Aurora Theater shooter, and the media, who will have an ongoing, sordid story to relay at the top of the hour/on their front pages.

Brauchler’s decision is selfish, damaging and wasteful. The chimp in us all wants to see Holmes drawn and quartered, burned at the stake, shot up like a clay pigeon. But we should be smart enough to see the equivalence of a life term and a death sentence and choose the former.

The Denver Post story, FYI:

Photos: Aurora theater shooter’s apartment ‘siege’

The alleged, though really no-longer alleged, Aurora theater shooter’s apartment building was a busy place today, hours after James Holmes shot 71 people, killing 12 as of this posting. Another five are in critical condition at University of Colorado Hospital.

I put “siege” in quotation marks because Holmes is in custody, and will, in all likelihood, be unable to reclaim the accouterments of his strange, short, unwelcome life in greater Denver, such as his “Anchorman” poster, his tripwire, and the bottles of volatile liquid the wire is apparently connected to.

I was at the hospital this afternoon, reporting a completely unrelated piece my mind wasn’t really on, and swung out to the corner of Peoria Street and 17th Avenue to take some shots of the scene. As of this evening,  Aurora Police had evacuated 5 apartment buildings surrounding Holmes’s booby-trapped apartment. They were planning on shutting down Peoria Avenue also. As I mentioned earlier, I know the area well, and ride my bike past this apartment buildling when I report stories at the hospital. Photos (pardon the redundant captions – straight from the IPTC files); consider them creative commons if you care to poach, though please credit me:

The intersection of Peoria Street and 17th Avenue the afternoon of July 20. Streets were blocked surrounding the alleged mass murderer James Holmes' apartment building. University of Colorado Hospital treated 23 of the 71 victims of the July 20, 2012 mass shooting at the Aurora Mall's Century 16 Theater.

Bomb squad truck

The Denver Police Bomb Squad truck outside the apartment building of alleged Aurora theater bomber James Holmes the afternoon of July 20, 2012.

Cameas outside James Holmes apartment windows

Camera crews look to the broken apartment windows of of James Holmes.

The broken windows of the Aurora theater shooting suspect the afternoon of July 20, shattered by police who determined that it had been booby trapped. Police and FBI agents broke the windows to take photos with cameras on booms.

Aurora theater bomber - firefighters wait

Firefighters seek shade under the awning of a closed taco shop on Peoria Avenue amid 100-degree temperatures the afternoon of July 20. Streets were blocked surrounding the alleged mass murderer James Holmes' apartment building. University of Colorado Hospital treated 23 of the 71 victims of the July 20, 2012 mass shooting at the Aurora Mall's Century 16 Theater.

TV crews await their stand-ups outside UCH's CeDAR building.

Aurora Police Sergeant Timothy Holt talks to a reporter at 17th Avenue and Peoria Streets.



Aurora shooting, close to home

Seventeenth and Paris

17th Avenue, my cycling route blocked by a madman's booby-trapped apartment (Stephen Mitchell/Denver Post)

I was planning on riding my bike over to University of Colorado Hospital this afternoon, but a three square block area through which I normally pedal has been cordoned off. You see, James Holmes, 24, the alleged Dark Night murderer — who just after midnight allegedly opened fire in the Century 16 at the Aurora Mall, lived in a building at 17th Avenue and Peoria Street that I pedal past just before entering the Anschutz Medical Campus.

He has apparently booby trapped the place in a sophisticated way. A brilliant application of upper-middle-class San Diego/University of Colorado talent, booby trapping a low-rent apartment and shooting 50 people in a movie theater. Your mom, whose house is apparently surrounded by media trucks out in Cali, is surely proud, James Holmes.

University of Colorado Hospital, for whom I do a lot of writing, mobilized admirably, taking 20 of the victims; the Medical Center of Aurora, where my oldest daughter was born, Children’s Hospital Colorado, and Swedish Medical Center shared the rest, as far as I know.

Of course, guns don’t kill — people do. The guns just help a tiny bit. In Japan or Europe (ignoring for a moment the Norwegian madman Brevik), Holmes would have allegedly had to run around stabbing people, and would have allegedly killed nowhere near the dozen who are currently, allegedly dead by his (not the gun’s — guns don’t kill, remember) hand.

I hopped over to the NRA site, which is bereft of comment on this horrific act. The NRA has a policy of not commenting on the horrific acts committed indirectly through its twisted — and now legally entrenched all the way down to municipal code — interpretation of the Second Amendment. Lots of blather about supporting law-abiding use of guns. Not much talk about gutting safeguards that might help law enforcement keep guns out of the hands of alleged whackjobs like James Holmes, who apparently qualified as a one-man, moviegoer-battling militia. Way to go, NRA.

Our gun laws our like many of our laws — legalistic (and maybe jingoistic, in the case of gun laws) rather than rational. Occam’s razor has been long abandoned for a menagerie of cutting tools that yield Kafkaesque outcomes.

As an aside, the idea that concealed carry laws enhance safety is ludicrous. The man threw smoke bombs and had an extraordinary tactical advantage. Stopping him before he did enormous damage would have required a suited-up SWAT team in the front row, nibbling popcorn, fingers on triggers. Same would hold if you were mugged. If someone’s already pointing a gun at your head, you’re going to have a helluva time reaching for yours.

In short, it’s nuts, it’s tragic, it’s sad, we deserve better. My heart goes out to the victims and their families.


Media catches up to extreme weather-global warming link

It took a week or so, but the stories linking U.S. extreme weather to climate change have started to roll out. A few links courtesy of the the Society of Environmental Journalists:

SCIENTISTS: ONGOING WEATHER EXTREMES OFFER PROOF OF CLIMATE CHANGE – “The bizarre weather of early summer in the US – from heatwave, wildfires, drought to freak storms – is just a sampling of what is to come for 2012 and a window to the future under climate change, scientists have said.” Suzanne Goldenberg reports for the Guardian July 3, 2012.

“Janet Napolitano Connects Wildfires to Climate Change” (Mother Jones)

“Climate Change: U.S. Heat Waves, Wildfires And Flooding Are ‘What Global Warming Looks Like'” (AP) (This is by Seth Borenstein, who’s been on this beat for a while and is rock-solid. I’m assuming some editor asked him to talk to John Christy of the University of Alabama, a noted climate-change skeptic. Buried him at the bottom with an inane quote, fortunately.)

“Wildfire, Heat Wave: Is It Climate Change?” (Orange County Register)


And finally, a link of a great op-ed piece Bill McKibben did for the Guardian (U.K.). My Aunt Donna was the aggregator on this one. Note how much information he squeezes into how little space, and how not-angry the prose reads, despite his obvious anger. His aim is to focus on the true rot, which is the motivation reasoning that pervades Washington D.C. and places the interests of those with campaign cash over the good of the people.