James Holmes sports new look in court appearance

20 Jan 2015 | Author: | No comments yet »

Aurora theater shooting a complicated case for jurors.

CENTENNIAL, Colorado — The long-awaited trial of James Holmes, the former graduate student whose lawyers say was insane when he massacred a dozen people in an Aurora movie theater three years ago, was set to begin Tuesday afternoon with the interviewing of prospective jurors.In this July 23, 2012 file photo, James Holmes, who is charged with killing 12 moviegoers and wounding 70 more in a shooting spree in a crowded theatre in Aurora, Colo., in July 2012, sits in Arapahoe County District Court in Centennial, Colo.(Photo: Associated Press) DENVER – At first glance, the Colorado movie theater shooting case seems simple. Holmes, sporting a new look, sat quietly and appeared engaged on Tuesday as proceedings began at his trial on murder and other charges in connection with the 2012 mass shooting in a suburban Denver movie theater.

The first 188 of those prospective jurors will arrive at the Arapahoe County courthouse Tuesday afternoon for the start of jury selection in the case. Also gone was the jailhouse garb that he has worn for every appearance in the more than two years since the attack on the Aurora, Colo., movie theater.

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. Sporting small, horn-rimmed glasses, neatly trimmed hair and beard, Holmes wore a charcoal gray sports jacket, blue-striped dress shirt and khaki slacks. The former University of Colorado graduate student was unshackled during the hearing, and was seen leaning back in his chair and exchanging comments with his lawyers. 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. He blended in easily with the lawyers at his defense table. “What is most important to me is that justice be done,” Judge Carlos Samour Jr. said in the Tuesday morning status hearing.

Holmes has pleaded not guilty by reason of insanity, but could be sentenced to death if found guilty on multiple counts of first-degree murder and attempted murder. Holmes, 27, was arrested as he stripped off his combat gear in the parking lot of the Century 16 movie theater in Aurora after he opened fire at the midnight showing of a new Batman movie. Under Colorado law, defendants are not legally liable for their acts if their minds are so “diseased” that they cannot distinguish right from wrong.

Previously, 250 people were to be brought in at a time to fill out the questionnaires, but officials said the first panel would be smaller because of the fewer summonses — about 130 to 150 people. The trial, however, is permitted to be broadcast live whenever opening arguments begin, giving a national audience a first real look at Holmes and an understanding into his motivations.

The gunshots came less than a second apart, round after round, until 12 people were dead and more than 70 others injured, some permanently, in the barrage of shotgun and semiautomatic gunfire let loose during a screening of the Batman movie “The Dark Knight Rises.” It has never been in doubt that Holmes, a once brilliant but deeply troubled neuroscience student at the University of Colorado-Denver, pulled the trigger: In July 2013, his lawyers admitted in pretrial court filings that their client was the shooter but contended he had been “in the throes of a psychotic episode.” Last month, his parents, Robert and Arlene Holmes, broke their silence to issue a statement expressing sympathy with the victims but also saying their son “is not a monster.” They pleaded for his life to be spared: “He is a human being gripped by a severe mental illness.” The case is being closely watched for its legal implications. Selecting 24 jurors will be a complicated process, Silverman said, particularly since the jury must be death certified, meaning people who are opposed to the death penalty cannot sit on the jury. 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. George Brauchler refused, proclaiming that, for Holmes, “justice is death.” In Colorado, someone who is insane cannot be put to death, and it is up to the prosecution to convince a jury that the defendant was sane at the moment of the crime.

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