Tuesday, October 8, 2013

Colorado: 6,000 to be called for Aurora theater shooting jury pool

Suspect James Holmes' death penalty trial is expected to last three months after weeks of jury selection.

Court officials plan to call 6,000 prospective jurors in the monthslong death penalty trial of Aurora movie theater shooting suspect James Holmes.

Holmes has pleaded not guilty by reason of insanity in the face of 12 murder counts from the summer 2012 shooting, and faces execution if jurors convict him and then decide to apply the death penalty.

In a court hearing Monday, Holmes sat stoically in a red jail jumpsuit as the judge, prosecutors and defense attorneys discussed logistics for the upcoming trial. His dark brown hair slicked back on his head, an unshaven Holmes also showed no reaction as officials from the state mental hospital handed over sealed envelopes containing mental health records.

Holmes this summer was examined by state psychiatrists, whose reports are being kept secret except from his defense team and prosecutors. Officials also turned over mental-health records from the University of Colorado, from which he was withdrawing when the shootings occurred.

Prospective jurors will be quizzed extensively about their perspectives on mental illness and the death penalty. "It's no secret that's what this trial is going to be about," Holmes' defense attorney Dan King said during court.

Judge Carlos Samour Jr. said the jury that will decide Holmes' fate will be 12 members - the standard number - with 12 alternates, to ensure an adequate number should any jurors be excused during the trial. Prosecutors on Monday said they expect the case to last at least 3 months, and that's only after likely weeks of jury selection.

Acknowledging the disruption it will cause, Samour said the unusually large pool is necessary to ensure Holmes gets a fair trial: "The last thing we want to do is not have enough prospective jurors."

Prosecutor Karen Pearson argued that unusually extensive questioning of prospective jurors is needed to "ferret ... out" people who want to serve on the jury for personal or publicity reasons.

"There are people who may want to serve on this jury for what may be improper reasons," she said.

Prosecutors and defense attorneys on Monday also argued briefly about the admissibility of records from Match.com and Adult Friend Finder, which are dating websites. Prosecutors on Monday said they learned from the website TMZ that Holmes had made profiles on the 2 sites before the shootings. On one of them, Holmes asked, "will you visit me in prison?" TMZ reported.

Prosecutors say they plan to use that language to show Holmes knew the shootings were wrong, undercutting his insanity plea. Defense attorneys argue Holmes expected some of his information on those sites to be kept private, and that police improperly searched his iPhone to find them.

"When things are done in haste, mistakes are made," said Kristen Nelson, one of Holmes' attorneys.

Samour did not rule on that aspect of the case Monday. Holmes is due back in court Thursday for further proceedings.

Source: The Coloradoan, October 8, 2013