The jury has been chosen for the trial of the Colorado theater gunner: 19 women and five men will hear the case. Only half of them will serve are jurors, while the other 12 are alternates, but only the judge and the attorneys know which one is which.
The twenty-four jurors were picked on Tuesday, after a lengthy process that started on January 20 and, if we believe the experts, was one of the most extensive and complicated in the US history. Rob McCallum, a spokesman for Colorado Judicial Department, was the first one to make the announcement.
James Holmes is accused of the killing of 12 people and the wounding of 70 others after opening fire in a Denver movie theater on July 20, 2012. He started shooting in a full capacity theater in Aurora, just east of Denver, during a showing of the “The Dark Knight Rises”. The gunman was wearing body armor and used tear gas to stun the spectators before he started shooting.
The jury’s task will be to decide if Holmes was legally insane when he committed the attack. Holmes is charged with several counts of first-degree murder and attempted murder, but pleaded not guilty to all of them claiming he was under the effect of a psychotic episode. His lawyers acknowledge that their client is indeed the person who pulled the trigger, but hope to convince the jurors that he was legally insane at the time.
The matter of temporary insanity is so complicated that most experts estimate that even if the jury handles out a death sentence, actually executing Holmes could take decades, as the verdict would most likely be appealed against several times. His attorneys have already been successful in getting the trial delayed on more than one occasion.
However, the trial will begin on April 27. All twenty-four jurors will sit on the bench for the entire duration of the trial, and neither of them will know who is an alternate juror and who is a primary. Same goes for the public and the press.
From among the people selected, reporters managed to get the profile of a few of them. There is a union plumber as well as a public school teacher and a businesswoman. One person is known to be suffering from depression. The jury even includes one of the survivors of the 1999 Columbine High School massacre, which should prove interesting given the similarity between that case and the one he will be deliberating on.
Jury selection began four months ago, and during this time there were almost 9,000 summonses sent out. District Attorney George Brauchler explained that for him the experience was a “four- to five-month roller coaster through the worst haunted house you can imagine.” There were 93 potential jurors remaining to be examined on Tuesday, and attorneys wanted to make sure they select the right people.
Through the questions the asked, the officials wanted to find out how each jury prospect interprets the law, how will they determine the credibility of the testimonies they are about to hear and, of course, how big of an emotional impact the case will have on them.
Given that it is a high profile case, the public scrutiny will be great, and the defense attorney, Tamara Brady, wanted to make sure the jurors will have their deliberations influenced by public pressure. She is still unsure “whether Mr. Holmes can get a fair trial in this case or whether it’s just too big.” Brady is concerned most of the jurors will get too emotional during the trial, as she realized while examining some of the reactions prospective jurors had while listening to each victim’s name.
Some of the jurors already feel the pressure, as attorneys reported they were asked what would other people think in case they reach an unpopular verdict. Most of the potential jury members promised not to have their mind clouded by such concerns, but some required assurance from the judge that their identity will remain secret.
Holmes’ trial arrives only shortly after a verdict was given in the Boston marathon bombings trial. Another high-profile case known to be complicated by intense exposure to media was the trial of the killer of the “American Sniper”, the Navy SEAL whose life is depicted in the movie. It would be unwise to believe that the jury will not feel any pressure while deliberating Holmes’ fate.
Image Source: NBC News
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