19 women, 5 men selected for jury in Aurora movie theater shooting trial of James Holmes

Posted at 8:03 PM, Apr 14, 2015
and last updated 2015-04-27 08:23:55-04

After 84 days, the jurors and alternates needed for the Aurora, Colorado movie theater shooting trial are finally seated.

A field of 9,000 was narrowed to a final total of 19 women and 5 men throughout the three-stage process.

During the first phase, which lasted about a month, jurors were asked to complete a questionnaire. Later, several hundred were asked to return for individual questioning over the course of about two months.

The last phase of the process, group questioning of the 112 remaining jurors, began Monday. Of those, 19 were eliminated on Monday and the rest returned for the final day.

RELATED | Where to watch the theater shooting trial

District Attorney George Brauchler asked the potential jurors on Tuesday about media exposure, their feelings about expert witnesses and their understanding of legal concepts like "beyond a reasonable doubt" and "extreme indifference." Public defenders representing James Holmes asked about how media coverage might affect their service, how they feel when they see the defendant and what factors contribute to their evaluation of experts.

Throughout Tuesday afternoon and into the evening, the prosecution and defense took turns dismissing jurors as they sought the final 12 jurors and 12 alternates. The process did not go rapidly, however, because the defense repeatedly alleged the prosecution's dismissals were motivated by a racial bias.

District Court Judge Carlos Samour paused the proceeding each time, and once even left his bench to research the issue.

Now that the jury selection process is complete, the path is clear for opening statements, which are scheduled for the afternoon of Monday, April 27. Testimony will begin the next day. 

Prosecutors will be trying to prove that Holmes is guilty of killing 12 people and injuring 70 others in the July 20, 2012 shooting. The prosecution is seeking the death penalty, while Holmes has pleaded not guilty by reason of insanity. 

If the panel convicts him, it must then decide whether to sentence him to death. If jurors find he was insane at the time of the shooting, he would be committed indefinitely to a state psychiatric hospital.

Samour has estimated that the trial, including the possible sentencing phase, will be over by Labor Day.

-- Struggles of serving as a juror --

"I think that is going to be a life changing experience for everybody on that jury," said Nate Becker.  

Becker served as a juror in the Edward Montour case -- the man who admitted to killing corrections officer Eric Autobee at the Limon Correctional Facility in October 2002. The jury in that trial was also asked to weigh the death penalty, like the theater shooting trial.

"You're putting your life on hold to be a member of this jury, there's no doubt. It weighs on your mind, the gravity of the decision, that you're being trusted with, and being forced to make," said Becker.

While the Montour trial came to a quick halt with the defendant pleading guilty just days into testimony, Becker said the experience is still memorable.

"When you come home, your wife can't ask how your day was today, because you can't talk about it. Your wife, your family, your friends -- nobody can truly understand what these people are going to go through," said Becker.

A commitment to serve, impacting the lives of everyone in the courtroom.

"We all have different things we'd rather be doing, but this is a critical piece our system, and we need jurors to be willing to commit to that," said Becker.

The jury will not be sequestered. The availability of electronics makes shielding jurors from all media virtually impossible, said one lawyer.

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