Theater shooting defendant in court as jury selection nears

20 Jan 2015 | Author: | No comments yet »

Colorado theater shooting suspect has neat-trimmed hair, sits quietly as jury selection nears.

DENVER (AP) — Theater shooting defendant James Holmes has arrived in court in Colorado with neatly trimmed dark hair and sat quietly just hours before attorneys begin choosing a jury to decide if he was sane during the deadly 2012 attack. 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.

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. | AP Photo/Denver Post, RJ Sangosti, Pool, File DENVER — At first glance, the Colorado movie theater shooting case seems simple. Holmes was dressed in civilian clothes Tuesday and with no visible restraints, though the judge had ordered him to be tethered to the floor in a way the public couldn’t see for the trial. 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. 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. 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.

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. 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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