Colorado massacre trial to hear from youngest victim's mother

Reuters News
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Posted: Jun 18, 2015 1:37 PM

By Keith Coffman

CENTENNIAL, Colo. (Reuters) - Jurors in the Colorado movie massacre trial will hear the youngest victim's mother describe discovering that she was pregnant earlier that day and how she took her six-year-old daughter to a Batman film to celebrate, the judge ruled on Thursday.

Prosecutors have spent eight weeks calling more than 200 witnesses in their murder case against gunman James Holmes. They plan to wrap up on Friday with testimony from Ashley Moser, who was partially paralyzed in the July 2012 mass shooting and whose child Veronica was one of 12 people killed.

Lawyers for Holmes, now 27, who has pleaded not guilty by reason of insanity, had sought to block much of what is expected to be a heart-rending account from Moser, arguing that many parts would be irrelevant and unfairly prejudicial.

In a point-by-point ruling, Arapahoe County District Judge Carlos Samour said he will allow most of the testimony and will also let the prosecution briefly display a photograph of Veronica.

"I'm going to allow the people to show it, but literally for three seconds," Samour said. "I understand the concerns from the defense in terms of the possibility for unfair prejudice, so I'm requiring that it be brief."

Any mention during the trial of Veronica, who died after being shot several times by Holmes, has evoked emotions in the small, windowless courtroom near Denver, with burly police and firefighters breaking down in tears on the stand.

Samour noted that during jury selection, several potential jurors had asked how a six-year-old came to be at the midnight premiere of the Batman film "The Dark Knight Rises."

"I think it's a natural question," the judge said, overruling another of the defense's objections. "I think she's entitled to explain why she brought her young daughter to this movie."

Moser has said she wrongly believed it was an animated cartoon aimed at younger children, and that she had wanted to celebrate after having an ultrasound test and learning she was pregnant.

Samour also ruled that Moser could describe how she was paralyzed from the waist down and lost the unborn baby due to her injuries.

Holmes could face the death penalty if he is convicted on multiple counts of murder and attempted murder. Seventy people were also wounded in the rampage.

Two court-appointed psychiatrists have concluded that although Holmes was seriously mentally ill, the California native was sane when he planned and carried out the attack.

(Reporting by Keith Coffman; writing by Daniel Wallis, editing by G Crosse)