Theater shooting jury selects foreperson, requests whiteboard to use during deliberations

Posted at 12:34 PM, Jul 15, 2015
and last updated 2015-07-16 09:31:43-04

About a half an hour after gathering to start their deliberations Wednesday morning, jurors in the theater shooting case have selected their foreperson and requested a whiteboard to use in their work.

Court convened at 9:50 a.m., without the jury present, to review the jury's request for the whiteboard and markers. It was approved without objection.

Jurors also informed the court that they plan to work on their deliberations between the hours of 8:15 a.m. and 4:30 p.m. -- although they have a pre-scheduled day off on Friday.

Those notes were signed by the jury's foreperson, the judge announced, meaning they've already completed that necessary step.

The nine women and three men deliberating in this case face a daunting task. They need to decide if the admitted gunman is guilty or not guilty by reason of insanity on 165 counts.

Their work is governed by 62-pages of instructions that were published to the public for the first time Tuesday evening. The topics include rules for the deliberation room, explanations of the 165 counts in the case and a summary of the insanity plea advanced by the defense.

Those include two counts of first-degree murder for each of the 12 victims killed in the July 20, 2012 mass shooting. It also includes two counts of attempted murder for each of the 70 victims who were wounded and one count regarding the explosives and incendiary devices set up inside the gunman's apartment.

Prosecutors are pursuing the death penalty for James Holmes, but first the jury would have to find him to be guilty. If the jurors find him not guilty by reason of insanity, he would automatically be committed to a state-selected mental health institution for an indefinite period of time.


-- Question No. 2 -- 

With their second note to the court, the jury asked if they could be provided with a guide or index to help them find items in the voluminous piles of case evidence.

The judge replied that he was unable to provide that kind of resource.

“I anticipated this, because there are thousands of pieces of evidence," Judge Carlos Samour said, "but, unfortunately, they have to do it the hard way."


-- About the jury --

Two of the 12 jurors have connections to the 1999 mass shooting at Columbine High School, including one who survived that incident and another who is related to a survivor. Other notable members of the panel include an attorney, a former victim's advocate and a physicist who specializes in explosives and competes in marksmanship.

Learn more about the jurors with our interactive jury box

Deliberations have no set time limit, but attorney Dan Recht speculated that it could take several days for the jury to make their decision. They'll have Friday off this week, as a pre-planned part of the trial's schedule, and that means their third potential day for deliberations would be on the 20th, the third anniversary of the shooting itself.

While those 12 jurors deliberate, seven other alternate jurors who sat through the whole case will be asked to wait in a room elsewhere in the courthouse complex. They'll be kept nearby, but out of contact, in case there is a problem that removes one of the jurors from the deliberating group.

The alternates will not be allowed to deliberate or even discuss the case while they wait. 


-- Guilty or not guilty by reason of insanity --

"He leaves nothing to chance," Brauchler said during his closing argument Tuesday. "He's planned for all the contingencies and all of that planning goes to (his) intent."

Read more of DA Brauchler's closing arguments

There is no burden of proof for the defense and their not guilty by reason of insanity plea. Public defenders led by Dan King needed only to sow the seeds of reasonable doubt and pointed repeatedly to the gunman's diagnosed mental illness as the cause of the shooting.

"When he walked into that theater, the evidence is clear that he could not control his thoughts," King said during his closing argument. "The psychotic process had obscured his ability to think about things the way that we do."

Read more about King's closing arguments for the defense

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