I’m getting down the wire on the publication of the book and have spent the last two week working on the final details. Place your orders now for first editions!
Welcome back. This week I’m taking you back to last Tuesday July 14, 2015 in Centennial, Colorado on what is called “media row” where all the writers, TV journalists and any other type of reporter are supposed to park, the day started out cool with clear skies. Journalists from around the world gathered for closing arguments by attorneys in the trial of movie theater shooter James Holmes and I hope you enjoy my take on how it went.
I arrived at the Arapahoe County Courthouse on Monday in hopes of getting a seat in the courtroom and I was lucky enough to find myself sitting just 14 feet away from Holmes with his mother and father in between us. This would be my assigned seat for as long as the proceedings lasted.
I also had a direct view of the jury which was seated to my right. If they all agreed that Holmes is insane he would go directly to a state mental institution. If they decided he is legally competent at the minimum he faced life in prison or possibly execution. From a prospective pool of literally thousands of people, the pool had been narrowed to 93 people, then to 24 and now it was down to 12 actual jurors.
Judge Carlos Samour, Jr. wanted three assurances from the jurors:
That they could presume James Holmes innocent of all 165 charges against him-not just grant him the presumption of insanity
That they were capable of disregarding any information about the case reported in the media
That if Holmes were found guilty of first degree murder they would be able to fairly consider either sentencing him to life in prison without the possibility of parole or giving him the death penalty
After reviewing over 1500 photographs and listening to the testimony of 250 witnesses and 10 psychiatrists this jury faced a monumental task.
I had the opportunity to do some early research on the background of these folks and though the judge has ordered that no names be released, I can give you a general profile of each juror. During the trial several jurors were dismissed so the numbers are not sequential:
Seat 1: A white woman in her 40s who works as a union plumber and has 2 children
Seat 2: A white woman in her 50s who is a lawyer
Seat 3: An Hispanic woman in her mid-twenties who volunteers for victim advocacy groups
Seat 5: A white woman in her 50s whose niece was in the Columbine High School cafeteria at the time of those shootings
Seat 6: A white woman in her 40s who stated that her son has a drug addiction
Seat 11: A white woman about 60 with a psychology degree whose son and son-in-law both work in law enforcement
Seat 13: A white woman in her 50s who has been a paramedic for 20 years
Seat 14: A white man in his 40s who said he knew very little about the Aurora shootings because he had been living in California at the time
Seat 15: A white man in his 30s who is the manager of a Bed, Bath & Beyond
Seat 17: A white man in his 30s who is a survivor of the Columbine shootings
Seat 21: An Hispanic woman in her 30s whose son is bipolar
Seat 23: A white woman in her mid-40s who expressed an interest in hearing testimony from Holmes’ parents
These are the 12 people who would decide Holmes’ verdict and as you all know by now, they found him guilty. However last Tuesday, with 165 counts against him, a decision was very much up in the air.
I attended the beginning of the Holmes trial some 70 days ago and so I have had the chance to observe Holmes 10 to 12 times. His demeanor has always been the same, only his clothes changed. He sat staring straight ahead often with a slight smile. He didn’t speak but occasionally laughed, seemingly at himself.
There were some preliminary statements on Tuesday morning before the jury was brought in so everyone present knew we were in for a long day. The prosecution went first, and with a two hour limit imposed by the judge, they opened with a summary of the facts in the case. Standing less than four feet in front of Holmes, the prosecutor pointed to him and told the jury that he was the guy who had killed all these people in a methodically planned and premeditated attack.
In the defense’s statement they responded that yes, Holmes had killed and in fact wants to kill again.
A 25 minute rebuttal by the prosecutor followed, again hammering on the premediated aspects of the attacks. There was a live TV feed from the courtroom through this portion of the trial so millions of people were able to watch the proceedings. For you readers who may not have seen it, I hope I have given you a little insight into what went on.
I’ll end this week with a few interesting facts:
It is estimated that the cost for the trial of James Holmes is now over $5,000,000. It cost $20,000 alone to print the notices and questionnaires for the original pool of 9,000 prospective jurors. According to Yahoo News in 2013 Holmes offered to forfeit the trial in exchange for a sentence of life in prison without parole if he could escape the death penalty.
Till next time, I’ll see ya down the road….