James Holmes can wear street clothes during movie massacre trial
CENTENNIAL, Colo. -- The judge in James E. Holmes’ murder trial in the Aurora movie theater massacre ruled Tuesday that the defendant can wear street clothes to court and that prospective jurors will not be sequestered during what is expected to be a lengthy selection process.
In allowing Holmes to shed his prison clothes, Judge Carlos Samour Jr. quoted from a Colorado appellant ruling: “The presumption of innocence requires the garb of innocence.” He also cited a U.S. Supreme Court ruling that determined wearing prison clothes is “inherently prejudicial.”
Holmes, 25, is scheduled to stand trial in February 2014 on a total of 166 counts of first degree murder, attempted murder and weapons charges in connection with last summer’s Aurora movie theater massacre. Twelve people died and 70 were injured on July 20 when a gunman opened fired in a packed movie theater during a midnight showing of “The Dark Knight Rises.”
Holmes could face the death penalty if he is convicted.
In his many appearances in court since last summer, Holmes was shackled and wore the baggy maroon shirt and pants of the Arapahoe County Jail. His defense attorneys filed a motion last week asking that he be allowed “civilian clothes.”
Although Samour agreed with the defense on clothing issues, he denied a defense request that potential jurors need to be sequestered to avoid exposure to casual conversation about the case in the courthouse.
“Sequestration of prospective jurors in this case would be impractical, especially since jury selection may take weeks and the prospective jurors would presumably be required to stay in their rooms all day,” he wrote.
The judge granted a defense motion asking that a separate jury pool be created just for this case and that a list of prospective jurors be given to defense lawyers “as far in advance as possible.”
His decisions offer a glimpse at the magnitude of the trial. Previously the defense has said it needed nine months to try the case, while the prosecution predicted a three-month long case. Samour has scheduled a four-month trial, beginning Feb. 3.
The prosecution has indicated there are more than 3,200 people on its potential witness list and more than 40,000 pages of discovery that both sides continue to wade through.
Samour has set aside the month of August to hear pre-trial arguments on scores of motions, including a change of venue, the barring of any potential witnesses -- except Holmes’ parents -- from the courtroom, and the exclusion of much of the evidence gathered from Holmes’ apartment and car as well as information on his computers, phone and bank records.
Samour has said he will also schedule another month in the fall for all motions related to the death penalty.
The judge, who took over the case in April, has been insistent that the case proceed on schedule.
Last week Samour accepted Holmes’ plea of not guilty by reason of insanity, setting in motion mandatory psychiatric testing by doctors at Colorado Mental Health Institute to determine his mental condition. It has been estimated that those findings may not be ready until midsummer. The defense has said Holmes is mentally ill.
If Holmes is found to be insane or suffering from a mental defect, he cannot be put to death.
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