AURORA | A former prosecutor said Sunday the man accused of shooting and killing 12 people and wounding 58 others at a Colorado movie theater won’t face an additional homicide charge after one of the victims who was critically injured suffered a miscarriage.
Defense attorney Karen Steinhauser, a former prosecutor and current adjunct professor at the University of Denver, said homicide charges in Colorado only apply to those “who had been born and alive.”
“Legally, it doesn’t fit the definition” in this case, she said.
The family of Ashley Moser, who was critically wounded in the July 20 shooting in Aurora, said in a statement Saturday she is recovering from surgery but the trauma caused the miscarriage. Moser suffered gunshot wounds to her neck and abdomen.
Her daughter, 6-year-old Veronica Moser-Sullivan, was the youngest person killed in the attack.
James Holmes, a 24-year-old former doctoral student studying neuroscience, is accused of opening fire on the theater and is scheduled to be formally charged Monday.
Steinhauser said prosecutors could charge him with two counts of first-degree murder for each of the 12 victims. For each victim, there could be a count for murder and a count for “manifesting extreme indifference to the value of human life,” she said. On top of that, she said, Holmes could face attempted murder charges for everyone in the theater, even those who were not injured, as well as assault and explosives charges.
Police say Holmes booby-trapped his apartment with tripwires and explosive materials.
Regardless of the charges, Moser’s miscarriage could rekindle a debate about whether to allow prosecutors to charge people with killing a pregnant woman’s baby.
Last year, El Paso County Rep. Mark Waller put forth a bill that would have created new felony charges, such as unlawful termination of a pregnancy in the first, second and third degrees. A fourth-degree charge would be a misdemeanor. The bill also would create an offense for vehicular unlawful termination of a pregnancy.
Waller’s proposal stated that it didn’t “confer the status of ‘person’” to an unborn child. It also included language saying people wouldn’t be charged in cases where a mother consents to medical care.
The Republican lawmaker said pressure from both sides of the abortion debate forced him to abandon the proposal, though he insisted the bill was about adequately prosecuting cases.