CENTENNIAL, Colo. (AP) – The months-long process of selecting a jury in the Colorado theater shooting case is nearing its end, the judge said as the pool of prospective jurors, once numbering 9,000, was reduced to 93 on Monday.
Judge Carlos A. Samour Jr. said he anticipates a 12-member jury could be seated as soon as Tuesday in the trial of James Holmes. The judge also is seeking 12 alternate jurors for a trial that could last through the summer.
Holmes has pleaded not guilty by reason of insanity in the July 20, 2012, attack that killed 12 people and injured 70. Prosecutors are seeking the death penalty, and opening statements are set for April 27.
Holmes had a new, shorter haircut for Monday’s hearing and had shaved the bushy beard he wore just last week. He wore a brown shirt and reddish, tortoise shell glasses.
Nineteen people were dismissed on Monday, reducing the pool of prospects to 93. That’s down from about 9,000 prospective jurors court officials initially summoned. Experts say the jury selection, which began in January, was among the largest and most complicated in U.S. history.
After filling out lengthy questionnaires starting Jan. 20, hundreds of people were asked to return for one-on-one sessions, where defense attorneys, prosecutors and the judge questioned them, sometimes for hours, about their views on the death penalty, mental illness and other aspects of the criminal justice system.
Samour told attorneys that they could no longer press prospective jurors about those topics during group questioning that began Monday. Attorneys instead will ask questions about the rule of law and how prospective jurors gauge the credibility of witnesses who testify.
Unlike in individual questioning, attorneys can now dismiss potential jurors without giving cause.
Samour said he was impressed by the prospective jurors, many of whom told him they would rather not serve on the jury but would if needed, giving up four or five months of their lives.
“You are the reason we have the democratic society we relish today,” Samour told them, noting that one prospective juror moved her honeymoon from May to April and another agreed to get up at 3 a.m. to get in five hours of work every day.
Samour, who is from El Salvador, also tried to put them at ease, poking fun at his accent and making a joke. “Now that you understand how long and inefficient jury selection is, do you understand why they never show it on ‘Law and Order’ ?” he said, referring to the long-running TV series.
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