Aurora theater shooting trial begins: how it compares with Tsarnaev case (+video)

20 Jan 2015 | Author: | No comments yet »

5 things you need to know Tuesday.

Just weeks after the start of the Boston Marathon bombing trial, another high-profile trial is set to begin Tuesday, as jury selection begins in Denver for the Aurora, Colo., massacre. It will be far more complicated for jurors, who will wrestle with whether he was insane when he barged into a packed movie theater, clad in combat gear, and opened fire on moviegoers in July 2012. Their task will be to decide whether James Holmes was legally insane at the time of the July 20, 2012, attack during a showing of a Batman movie in the Denver suburb of Aurora.

Experts say it is rare to have a mass shooter appear in court to face charges – many either are killed by police or commit suicide. “The public is going to get an insight into the mind of a killer who says he doesn’t know right from wrong,” said Alan Tuerkheimer, a Chicago-based jury consultant. “It is really rare. It just doesn’t usually come to this.” The first step begins on Tuesday, when 9,000 prospective jurors – what experts say is the largest jury pool in U.S. history – begin arriving at the courthouse in Centennial, in suburban Denver. In the 2-1/2 years since the shooting, the case has sparked an emotionally charged debate, with his parents begging for a plea deal that would save his life while many survivors and family members of victims have demanded that he be put to death. In this 2012 file photo, Colorado movie theater shooting suspect James Holmes sits in Arapahoe County District Court in Centennial, Colo. (Photo: RJ Sangosti, AP) It’s President Obama’s sixth State of the Union address, but the first where Congress is completely controlled by the Republican Party.

Under Colorado law, defendants are not legally liable for their acts if their minds are so “diseased” that they cannot distinguish right from wrong. THE VICTIMS: The dead included a 6-year-old girl, two active-duty servicemen, a single mom, an aspiring broadcaster who survived a mall shooting in Toronto and a 27-year-old celebrating his birthday and wedding anniversary. The initial days of juror selection in the trial of accused Boston bomber Dzhokhar Tsarnaev have provided a glimpse of just how difficult impaneling an impartial jury for such heinous and high-profile crimes can be.

They include American Alan Gross, recently released from a Cuban prison, a 13-year-old from Chicago whose letter to Santa asked for safety and astronaut Scott Kelly. Prosecutors previously rejected at least one proposed plea deal made by attorneys for Holmes, criticizing the lawyers for publicizing the offer and calling it a ploy meant to draw the public and the judge into what should be private plea negotiations. “We’ve all been to therapists and have talked to our families and have our support groups, so we’re prepared,” said Marcus Weaver, who was shot in the arm and whose friend, Rebecca Wingo, died in the attack. “It’s gonna be quite the journey.” It could take until June to find the jurors and alternates who were not biased by the widespread news coverage of the shooting. Because the plea is rare and defined differently from state to state, it is not well understood by the public, according to an analysis of the plea in this case published in the Journal of Law and Social Deviance. Dozens of heads of state and 2,500 business leaders – along with accompanying journalists, analysts and experts – are piling into the Alpine ski town (population 11,142) for five days of workshops, speeches and fast-and-furious networking starting tonight.

If Holmes is found guilty of murder, the jury would then decide whether he should be sentenced to life in prison without the possibility of parole or executed. In Colorado, however, it is the prosecution’s responsibility to prove that the defendant is sane enough to be held fully responsible. “Many people believe that the insanity defense is a loophole that allows guilty defendants to ‘go free,’ ” write legal experts Kathleen Bantley and Susan Koski in the analysis. “In one survey, sixty-six percent of respondents believed that the insanity defense should not be available.” Some legal analysts argue that this defense is protected by the 14th Amendment’s due process clause or the Eighth Amendment’s ban on cruel and unusual punishment. A straight not-guilty verdict is considered unlikely because his lawyers have acknowledged he was the gunman, and the evidence that he pulled the trigger is overwhelming. Coloradans aren’t as opposed to the death penalty as many Massachusetts residents are: A poll conducted by The Denver Post found that 68 percent of Coloradans favor the death penalty. Another case that has taken years to reach a final conclusion is that of energy giant BP, whose Deepwater Horizon rig explosion killed 11 people and spilled millions of barrels of crude oil into the Gulf of Mexico in 2010.

In September last year, the same judge, Carl Barbier, determined that the London-based company acted “recklessly” and used “willful misconduct” as it bypassed signs of trouble to continue working the ill-fated well. Samour will tell them they may not discuss the case with anyone, do any independent research on it, or watch, read or listen to news reports about it. However, last week Barbier found that the size of the spill was smaller than the government had claimed, amounting to 3.19 million barrels instead of 4.09 million. The pressure on online apartment rental company Airbnb to scale down operations in New York City is expected to ratchet up Tuesday with a hearing at City Hall that will include angry tenants of rent-stabilized apartments.

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