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Parents of Aurora shooting suspect ask that he not be executed

A March 2013 file photo of Robert and Arlene Holmes, parents of Aurora theater shooting suspect James Holmes. (Ed Andrieski/AP)
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The parents of James Holmes, the man accused in a shooting spree inside a Colorado movie theater in 2012, have asked that their son not be executed, pleading instead for him to be institutionalized or imprisoned for the rest of his life.

“We do not know how many victims of the theater shooting would like to see our son killed,” Robert and Arlene Holmes wrote in a letter published by the Denver Post on Friday morning. “But we are aware of people’s sentiments. We have read postings on the Internet that have likened him to a monster. He is not a monster. He is a human being gripped by a severe mental illness.”

This letter appears to be the first public comment on the shooting made by Holmes’s parents since July 2012, when the family said through an attorney that they stood by their son but asked for privacy. The Denver Post reported that its editorial page obtained the letter through their attorney.

In the letter, Holmes’s parents called for an outcome that avoids the death penalty, which they call “morally wrong, especially when the condemned is mentally ill.” They wrote that allowing him to spend the rest of his life in an institution “would prevent any future harm to him and others” going forward, adding that Holmes could plead guilty and be sentenced to life in prison without parole.

Holmes’s parents said they have spent the time since the shooting thinking about the victims of the shooting and their friends and family. “We also decry the need for a trial,” they wrote. “A lengthy trial requires everyone to relive those horrible moments in time, causing additional trauma.”

Holmes is accused of killing 12 people and wounded dozens of others during a midnight screening of “The Dark Knight Rises” in July 2012. He has been charged with two dozen counts of first-degree murder as well as attempted murder, using a deadly weapon to carry out a violent crime and possessing explosive devices.

Prosecutors have said they plan to seek the death penalty for Holmes. The trial, which hasbeen delayed multiple times, is set to begin in January.