Sick juror delays Colorado movie massacre trial until Monday

Reuters News
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Posted: Jul 24, 2015 11:44 AM

By Keith Coffman

CENTENNIAL, Colo. (Reuters) - The judge in the Colorado movie massacre trial sent the jury home until Monday after a member of the panel complained early on Friday that she was suffering from a sinus infection, fever and headache and could not concentrate.

"We've all been sick before ... we can all empathize," Arapahoe County District Court Judge Carlos Samour told the juror. Lawyers from both sides agreed to the pause, which Samour said could be extended until Tuesday depending on her condition. "I want her to get better," the judge said.

The panel of nine women and three men are hearing the punishment phase of the trial of gunman James Holmes, 27, who killed 12 people and wounded 70 in a July 2012 rampage at a midnight screening of a Batman film at a Denver area theater.

Defense lawyers had been expected to ask the jurors whether they saw any media reports of Thursday night's deadly movie theater shooting in Lafayette, Louisiana.

Almost three years to the day after Holmes went on his rampage in Aurora, a 59-year-old Alabama drifter killed two women with a handgun, then himself, police said.

On Thursday, the jurors found the prosecution had proved aggravating factors which the state argued make Holmes' crimes so heinous he deserves to be put to death.

The trial is now in the mitigation phase, with the gunman's attorneys calling witnesses including former teachers of the defendant, a high school friend, and the head counselor at a summer camp where Holmes worked.

After the jurors were sent home Friday, the defense continued to call witnesses whose testimony was recorded on video. It will be played later in open court.

If the jury decides unanimously that the mitigating factors outweigh the aggravating ones, Holmes will get an automatic life sentence. If not, they will hear victim impact testimony, then ultimately deliberate on whether he should be executed.

Separately on Friday, Samour noted an online report that an alternate juror wore a Metallica T-shirt on Thursday bearing the image of an electric chair and slogan "Ride the Lightning."

After questioning the juror, the judge said he was satisfied the juror was not trying to send a message, and just grabbed any shirt. Samour criticized the reporter.

"This had no meaning at all ... but he made a story out of it because he wanted to show he was the smartest kid in class," Samour said.

(Reporting by Keith Coffman; Additional reporting and writing by Daniel Wallis; Editing by James Dalgleish and David Gregorio)