Those who ponder the wisdom of the death penalty need look no further than the Aurora, Colo., theater shooting trial for a textbook example of the obstacles it creates in the prompt pursuit of justice.
Last week, we learned the trial of James Holmes would be delayed until October and possibly beyond as the court waits for a new psychiatric evaluation of the defendant and mulls potential appeals of the new evaluation.
This is all about whether Holmes was legally insane during the crimes he is accused of committing, and it is the linchpin of the death penalty case against him.
If doctors deem him legally insane and jurors agree, that opens the door to a finding of not guilty by reason of insanity, and the death penalty is off the table.
That's why there is trench warfare over the competency issue.
Critics of the drawn-out process might try to blame Arapahoe County District Court Judge Carlos Samour, but it's understandable he is proceeding with care. He could be second-guessed in appellate court. And the fact that a man's life hangs in the balance is no small consideration.
When all pre-trial machinations are done, a jury is selected from a pool of 6,000, and a trial is finished, three years may have elapsed since the crime. And that's not even taking years of appeals into account.
That is a long time to wait for resolution of the 2012 shooting deaths of 12 people inside an Aurora movie theater at the hands of a heavily armed gunman — especially when the evidence against the defendant is overwhelming.
All of the facts support the argument that the death penalty should be abolished in Colorado, and state lawmakers and the governor, who has obvious qualms about it, should be taking the lead on the issue.
Yes, polls still show support for the death penalty. But if people understood that the costly, seemingly interminable process they are witnessing in the Holmes case is inevitable these days, they might just have a change of heart.