Judge re­moves 3 ju­rors in Aurora trial

One had dis­cussed news of the theater shoot­ing case in the pres­ence of oth­ers.

Los Angeles Times - - THE NATION - By Maria L. La Ganga maria.la­ganga@la­times.com

The Aurora, Colo., theater shoot­ing trial was thrown into an up­roar and three mem­bers of the jury weigh­ing James E. Holmes’ fate were dis­missed Tues­day, af­ter one ju­ror told the judge that an­other had heard and dis­cussed news re­ports about the high-pro­file case at least two times.

Ara­pa­hoe County Judge Car­los A. Samour Jr. im­pan­eled twice as many ju­rors as nec­es­sary to hear the case as in­sur­ance against in­ter­rup­tions in the five-month death penalty trial. Nine­teen women and five men were im­pan­eled, of whom a jury of 12 will even­tu­ally be se­lected; the rest will be al­ter­nates.

The lawyers as well as all the jury mem­bers are un­der or­ders by Samour not to dis­cuss the case and not to dis­cuss me­dia cov­er­age of the case.

Holmes has ac­knowl­edged that he killed 12 peo­ple and in­jured 70 oth­ers on July 20, 2012, dur­ing one of the worst mass shoot­ings in Amer­i­can his­tory. He faces 166 charges, in­clud­ing first­de­gree mur­der and at­tempted mur­der. He has pleaded not guilty by rea­son of insanity.

The jury prob­lems started when Ju­ror 872’s phone rang dur­ing a break last week. Although she and her hus­band knew that she was not al­lowed to dis­cuss the case, her hus­band called to ask about news re­ports that one of the at­tor­neys had sent a Twit­ter mes­sage about the case from the court­room.

Her phone was on speaker, and she was one of five peo­ple on the court’s pa­tio, where ju­rors gather to smoke.

This is what Ju­ror 872 said un­der ques­tion­ing by Samour: “Last Thurs­day or Fri­day, my hus­band called me and asked me a ques­tion about what he saw on Face­book about Twit­ter. He was on speaker.... He asked me if I knew who the lawyer was.

“I said, ‘Why?’ He said, ‘That id­iot was tweet­ing on Face­book.’ He knows I’m not sup­posed to talk about it. I don’t look at it in the pa­per.... Him and I got into a big ar­gu­ment about it. It just hap­pened to be at lunch.”

Ju­ror 872’s hus­band also asked her whether she knew who “Brauch­ler” is, re­fer­ring to Ara­pa­hoe County Dist. Atty. Ge­orge H. Brauch­ler, who is the main pros­e­cu­tor in the case and who sent the tweet.

“I said, ‘He’s one of the lawyers,’ ” Ju­ror 872 re­counted in court Tues­day, as the rest of the ju­rors waited out­side of Di­vi­sion 201. “He said, ‘Well, that id­iot tweeted dur­ing the tes­ti­mony.’ He didn’t say what he tweeted.”

On Thurs­day, Brauch­ler tweeted: “I agree on the video. I hope the jury thinks so too.” Ac­cord­ing to the Den­ver Post, he later apol­o­gized, ex­plained that he thought he was send­ing a text, not tweet­ing, and took the post down quickly.

Holmes has been as­sessed by two court-ap­pointed psy­chi­a­trists, one of whom recorded the ses­sions on video. The pros­e­cu­tion played all 22 hours of in­ter­views in court.

Samour later pro­hib­ited at­tor­neys from tweet­ing and tex­ting dur­ing court.

When Ju­ror 872 was asked Tues­day why she did not re­port the in­ci­dent to the judge, as he ad­vised re­peat­edly ev­ery day when ex­cus­ing ju­rors for breaks and when court is over for the day, she replied:

“There was no ex­cuse. I just don’t re­ally pay at­ten­tion to my hus­band most of the time. It just wasn’t im­por­tant.... It was just kind of pushed un­der the rug and for­got about.”

Ju­ror 673 alerted the judge to the prob­lem Tues­day. Although the de­fense asked that she be dis­missed un­der an abun­dance of cau­tion, Samour al­lowed her to stay and thanked her for her can­dor.

In all, the judge ques­tioned five ju­rors about the in­ci­dent and dis­missed three of them.

Ju­ror 673’s note to Samour said that dur­ing the lunch break Mon­day, Ju­ror 872 made some com­ments that led her to be­lieve that she had been watch­ing the news. That con­ver­sa­tion oc­curred on the pa­tio, ac­cord­ing to the Den­ver Post, and at least two other ju­rors were present.

In the note, Ju­ror 673 told the judge that Ju­ror 872 knew an at­tor­ney that had tweeted and that at­tor­neys had been pro­hib­ited from bring­ing their phones into the court­room.

Though Samour did not list the of­fenses that got the ju­rors kicked off, his con­ver­sa­tions with at­tor­neys un­der­scored var­i­ous con­cerns: that Ju­ror 872 had heard about and talked about news re­ports; that she and oth­ers had not men­tioned the in­ci­dents to the judge as in­structed; and that they were not en­tirely can­did dur­ing ques­tion­ing.

RJ San­gosti Den­ver Post

JAMES HOLMES’ trial now has 21 ju­rors left, in­clud­ing al­ter­nates.

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from USA

© PressReader. All rights reserved.