Theater shooting case draws huge pool of prospective jurors

20 Jan 2015 | Author: | No comments yet »

Jury selection begins in long-awaited Aurora theater shooting trial.

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.

CENTENNIAL, Colo. (AP) – Jury selection in the trial of the man accused of killing 12 people and injuring 70 others in an attack on a Colorado movie theater is set to begin, with the first of 9,000 prospective jurors reporting to court on Tuesday. 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. 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. More detailed questioning of potential jurors will begin in mid-February. “We deeply appreciate your participation in this important aspect of our democratic society,” Judge Carlos Samour will tell the jurors Tuesday, according to his prepared remarks. “Without you, we could not have jury trials of the system of justice our nation enjoys.” Tuesday’s start of jury selection comes 914 days after the July 2012 attack on the Century Aurora 16 movie theater, in which 12 people were killed and 70 others wounded. Under Colorado law, defendants are not legally liable for their acts if their minds are so “diseased” that they cannot distinguish right from wrong.

So, while Tuesday marks the end of one journey, those impacted by the attack know the day also marks the beginning of another. “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.” 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. 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. 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.

Prosecutors will try to ensure jurors have no reservations about the death penalty while defense attorneys will look for those sympathetic to mental illness and uneasy with the idea of executing a person.

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