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Why Some Trials Take Years to Close: The Case of James Holmes

Many people may wonder why some criminal trials can take years to come to a close, such as the case of James Holmes, the infamous mass murderer who killed 12 people and injured 70 more in a shooting rampage during a theater showing of The Dark Knight in 2012.

Holmes’ trial is still ongoing, with his fate being discussed, dissected, and debated across mass media and social media alike. The guilty verdict was just announced in July of 2015, three years after he committed the murders. Some people wonder why and how it could take this long to reach a verdict.

The simplest answer for this is that, regardless of the crime, all defendants are entitled to legal assistance. In Holmes’ case, his defense attorneys first attempted a plea bargain which would have admitted Holmes’ guilt and allowed him life in prison without parole, eliminating the death sentence from the possible outcome of his trial. This move was denied. Two months later, in May of 2013, his attorneys put in a plea of not guilty by reason of insanity.

After his attorneys requested a continuance in October of 2014, the trial came and Holmes’ was officially found guilty on July 16, 2015. On August 3 of 2015, his insanity plea was dismissed, and the next step is to decide on whether or not he’ll receive the death penalty.

Many cases, especially those involving a potential loss of life, are slow-moving creatures. The wheels of justice do turn, but they often turn very slowly.

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