Colorado massacre trial jurors quizzed over Lafayette shooting

Reuters News
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Posted: Jul 27, 2015 1:29 PM

By Keith Coffman

DENVER (Reuters) - The judge in the Colorado movie massacre trial asked jurors on Monday if they saw reports of last week's deadly shooting at a Louisiana cinema, and whether they could remain impartial as they decide the fate of Aurora gunman James Holmes.

After questioning the jurors, Arapahoe County District Court Judge Carlos Samour decided not to dismiss any of them, saying they only had brief exposure to information about the case in Louisiana.

Holmes has been found guilty of killing 12 people and wounding 70 during a midnight screening of a Batman film at a suburban Denver multiplex in 2012.

Within days of the third anniversary of his rampage, police in Louisiana said a drifter fatally shot two women and then killed himself at a Lafayette movie theater on Thursday evening.

The Holmes jury was sent home early on Friday due to a juror's illness. On Monday, defense lawyers asked Samour to quiz the 12 jurors and seven alternates. The prosecution did not object.

    Twelve of those asked said they had heard news coverage of the Louisiana shooting, and the judge called them in one by one for further questions.

The jury must decide whether Holmes, 27, should be executed or serve life in prison. The panel of nine women and three men found the former neuroscience graduate student guilty of all 165 charges of first-degree murder, attempted murder and explosives charges related to his rampage.

The defense had asked for one female juror to be dismissed after she said she clicked on an online story about the Louisiana case, and briefly mentioned it to her husband.

Samour rejected the call: "I think she's extremely honest," the judge said.

Another female juror prompted laughter in court when she said that, after she was picked for the panel, she purchased a remote control for her radio in order to turn it off fast if news about the trial, or any related case, came on.

One juror said she would stop watching television until the proceedings concluded.

"Yes, I think that is kind of what it takes," Samour said, chuckling and thanking her.

Last week, the jury found the prosecution had proved "aggravating factors" which, the state argued, made Holmes' crimes especially heinous and deserving of execution.

The trial is now in the mitigation phase, with defense attorneys calling witnesses including former friends and teachers, in hopes they can prove mitigating factors outweigh the aggravating ones.

(Reporting by Keith Coffman; Additional reporting by Daniel Wallis; Editing by David Gregorio)