Jury Selection to Begin in Colorado Shooting Trial

20 Jan 2015 | Author: | No comments yet »

Jury Selection Begins in James Holmes Murder Trial.

DENVER – At first glance, the Colorado movie theater shooting case seems simple. An unprecedented pool of 9,000 jurors will travel to a Colorado courthouse on Tuesday where jury selection will begin in the long-awaited trial of James Holmes for a gun massacre in Aurora. 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.

Holmes, a 27-year-old former graduate student, faces 166 counts of murder, attempted murder and other charges in the shooting, which took place in Aurora, Colo., during a showing of the Batman film “The Dark Knight Rises.” Some 9,000 summonses have been mailed out to potential jurors in Arapahoe County—one of the largest jury pools ever called in the U.S., according to legal experts. Holmes has pleaded not guilty by reason of insanity to the first-degree and attempted murder charges brought forth by prosecutors; if he is found guilty of the crimes, jurors would have to decide whether or not he gets the death penalty.

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. The enormous number of prospective jurors being considered reflects just how deeply the mass shooting, one of the worst in the nation’s history, has impacted Colorado.

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. 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.

And in the months following the rampage, a long and wrenching debate over gun control dominated the state legislature here, an issue that continues to seep into local politics. 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.

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