Colorado theater says deadly 2012 attack was unstoppable

AP News
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Posted: May 10, 2016 4:02 PM

CENTENNIAL, Colo. (AP) — A civil trial is under way over whether the company that owns a Colorado movie theater should have done more to prevent a shooting that left 12 people dead, and the outcome could have far-reaching consequences for businesses, particularly big theater chains. In the first civil trial stemming from the July 20, 2012 attack, jurors will be asked to determine whether, in an age of mass shootings, Cinemark should have foreseen the possibility for violence during the packed midnight premiere of the Batman film "The Dark Knight Rises."

Some questions and answers about what's going on inside the courtroom:

WHO IS SUING AND WHY?

Twenty-eight survivors and their families are suing the Texas-based theater chain in state court in Colorado, arguing lax security allowed for the shooting. The victims argue that, while other theaters across the country were bolstering security for the summer blockbuster, Century 16 in Aurora lacked armed guards, closed-circuit television cameras that could have spotted trouble and a silent alarm that would have sounded when James Holmes slipped through an emergency exit door and opened fire. Cinemark failed to be prepared in a post-9/11 world, victims' attorney Marc Bern told jurors.

WHAT DOES THE THEATER SAY?

Attorneys for Cinemark, the third-largest theater chain in the United States, say Holmes was so determined and heavily armed that no security measures could have predicted or stopped him. Lawyer Kevin Taylor acknowledged there were no armed guards on hand for the Thursday night premiere but argued that management had deemed them unnecessary in Aurora, which was then considered among Forbes' safest cities in the country. Guards were stationed at other Cinemark theaters. Still, he said the company's procedures were in line with industry standards and customs.

According to Taylor, mass shootings are still so rare that theater management could not have anticipated one at a movie theater with no history of serious violence.

WHAT HAPPENED TO THE SHOOTER?

The civil trial began nearly nine months after Holmes was convicted and sentenced to life in prison. Jurors rejected his insanity plea, quickly finding that he was able to tell right from wrong despite evidence that he suffered mental illness. Prosecutors sought the death penalty, but jurors failed to unanimously agree that Holmes deserved to die for his crimes. More than 70 other people were hurt in the attack, some of whom lost limbs or were paralyzed.

IS ANYONE ELSE TO BLAME?

No one else was changed in the attack. But Cinemark attorneys argue if anyone besides Holmes is to blame it is his University of Colorado psychiatrists, to whom he repeatedly confessed his homicidal thoughts. Taylor told jurors the doctors should have had Holmes — a troubled neuroscience graduate student at the time of the shooting — placed on a 72-hour psychiatric hold once they knew his desire to kill. And other victims are suing psychiatrist Lynne Fenton and university officials for not doing enough to prevent the attack.