Theater shooting trial opening statements: What to expect from the prosecution and Holmes' defense

Posted at 5:07 PM, Apr 22, 2015
and last updated 2015-04-27 08:22:57-04

During opening statements, attorneys will try to set the table for jurors — getting the panel of 19 women and five men ready for testimony about the Aurora, Colorado movie theater shooting and the defendant's mental state.

Technically, the trial of defendant James Holmes began in January when the court began the 84-day process of selecting a jury. Now that the jury is seated, opening statements will begin at approximately 12:30 p.m. on Monday, April 27.

District Attorney George Brauchler, of the 18th Judicial District, will go first for the prosecution. He'll be arguing that the defendant is guilty and, if the jury agrees, that he should face the death penalty.

"They want the jury to be offended emotionally by the amount of terrible things that happened in that movie theater," said Dan Recht, a legal analyst for 7NEWS.

Afterward, when the defense is given their opportunity to present an opening statement, it will be divided between two attorneys. The judge earlier gave them permission to divide their statements.

For the defense, Katherine Spengler is likely to present one-half of that statement. She has lectured about opening statements at University of Colorado Law. The other half of the statement would likely come from Daniel King, a 20-year veteran of the Colorado State Public Defender's Office.

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"The defense is clearly going to gear its whole opening towards mental illness and that rising to the level of insanity," Recht speculated.

Both sides are allotted two hours for their opening statements.

"The longest opening statement I've ever been given -- and I've been involved in murder cases -- is less than an hour," Recht said.

The attorneys will need to provide the jury with a table of contents for the upcoming trial, but they'll also want to keep from boring the jurors with two hours of talking.

"I'd be surprised if each side uses the whole two hours because attention span is a problem," Recht said.

"The jurors, presumably, will be on the edge of their seat," Recht also said. "I will be, to know what these lawyers have to say and what evidence they're going to present."

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