Jury pool for Colorado theater murder trial expected to be largest in state history
(CNN) — A Colorado judge plans to cast a wide net to find those who’ll decide the fate of James Holmes — the man accused of murdering 12 people and wounding dozens more in an Aurora movie theater — with a jury pool that will be the largest in state history.
Judge Carlos Samour Jr. expects the jury pool will consist of 5,000 people, court spokesman Rob McCallum told CNN on Thursday. That would mean each of the 450,000 Arapahoe County residents eligible for jury duty would have a 1 in 90 chance of being called, for this one case alone.
While it’s unlikely all of them will show up, the idea is to bring in 800 prospective jurors at a time on Thursdays and Fridays early next year, a process that McCallum says could take three to four weeks.
Those thousands will be winnowed down to 12 men and women for the start of the trial, which is set to begin February 3. It is expected to last four months.
Asking more people than usual to come to court for high-profile cases is common in the U.S. justice system, given concerns many of them already know the story and have strong opinions about it.
In Florida, for example, there was a 500-person jury pool for the now-ongoing murder trial of George Zimmerman, who is accused in the killing of teenager Trayvon Martin — a case that drew national headlines for weeks.
So too, of course, did what happened just after midnight the night of July 20, 2012, in the Denver suburb of Aurora.
It was then and there, authorities say, that a man walked through an exit door into a crowded Theater 9 of the Century movie complex as a late-night premiere of the Batman sequel “The Dark Knight Rises” played.
The former neuroscience graduate student wore all-black, a ballistic helmet, a tactical ballistic vest, protective leggings, a throat and groin protector, and a gas mask, police say. And he carried an arsenal that included two Glock handguns, an AR-15 rifle, a shotgun and 6,295 rounds of ammunition, Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives agent Steve Beggs has testified.
“He didn’t care who he killed,” prosecutor Karen Pearson told a judge during a preliminary court hearing in January, adding he chose his venue carefully to cage his victims. “He intended to kill them all.”
After the carnage and Holmes’ subsequent capture outside the theater, he was charged with 166 counts of murder, attempted murder and weapons violations.
Since his arrest, much of the in-court discussion has resolved around Holmes’ mental state.
Judge Samour earlier this month accepted the defense’s plea of not guilty by reason of insanity. He was then taken to the Colorado Mental Health Institute in Pueblo for evaluation, and is expected to be back in Arapahoe County Jail on August 2.
By Shawn Nottingham and Greg Botelho
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