He allegedly killed 12 people, but he's being charged with 24 counts of murder. This morning, the alleged Colorado shooter James Holmes was formally charged with 24 counts of murder: 12 counts murder in the first degree "after deliberation," and 12 counts murder of "extreme indifference." Holmes injured 58 people but has been charged on 116 counts of attempted murder. Those charges also break down to half premeditated and half "with extreme indifference."
My first thought was -- what is murder of "extreme indifference"? This is definitely a charge not many of us have heard before. I did some digging to find out more about that charge -- and what I learned reveals something chilling about crime in America.
I found another example of someone being charged with murder with extreme indifference. It was just a couple weeks before the Aurora massacre, and it was also in Colorado. A man was charged with the shooting of a police officer at a jazz concert. Allegedly the man got into an argument and shot multiple rounds into a crowd. A bullet hit a police officer in the head, resulting in her death.
Denver defense attorney Peter Hedeen explained the "extreme indifference" charge to the Denver Post: "Literally, that's shooting into a crowd. That's classically why this (statute) exists. It's also a lot easier to prove. You don't have to prove premeditation."
I served on a jury recently where the defendant was charged with two different versions of the same type of crime. One was a higher charge that would be harder to prove. And the other was a slightly lesser charge that would be easier to prove. Prosecutors will do this to increase the chances of a conviction.
And so I imagine prosecutors are hoping that if they can't charge Holmes for premeditated murder, they can at least get him for murder with extreme indifference, in the event that the jury doesn't find the case for premeditation compelling enough. If Holmes is convicted on premeditated murder, he could face the death penalty.
But I think it's tragic that we have a statute created specifically for people who shoot directly into crowds. That there's been so many of those incidents, we have a special charge for it! What is the matter with us? Why is shooting into crowds so common? It's something we should be asking ourselves.
Of course, following the heartbreaking news that one of the injured victims miscarried, some might say we should add two more counts of murder.
For more details on today's hearing, follow Denver Post reporter John Ingold via Twitter.
Have you ever heard of the "murder with extreme indifference" charge before today?
Image via Arapahoe County Sheriff's Office