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James Holmes Trial: Jury Selection Begins in Movie Theater Killings Trial

Holmes, 27, could face the death penalty if found guilty of killing 12 people and injuring 58 others at a Colorado movie theater in July 2012.

CENTENNIAL, Colo. — Prospective jurors on Tuesday were called into court in the long-awaited trial of James Holmes, the former graduate student whose lawyers say was insane when he massacred a dozen people in an Aurora movie theater three years ago.

The first group of about 20 people, mostly white women, appeared during a hearing before Arapahoe County District Judge Carlos Samour. Six potential jurors were dismissed because they could prove they lived outside of the county or had doctor's notes.

During a morning hearing ahead of jury selection, Samour told the courtroom that he expects 188 potential jurors to appear Tuesday — just a sliver of the jury pool of 7,000. An additional 2,000 jury summonses were either "undeliverable" or those people were already excused, Samour said.

Holmes, 27, sat with his lawyers and was dressed in a grey sport coat, tan slacks and black shoes during the appearance Tuesday. He wore brown horn-rimmed glasses and trimmed his brown hair and beard — a stark contrast from the prison jumpsuit and shock of disheveled, orange hair he sported in court after his arrest in July 2012.

The former University of Colorado graduate student was unshackled during the hearing, and was seen leaning back in his chair and exchanging comments with his lawyers. Holmes has pleaded not guilty by reason of insanity, but could be sentenced to death if found guilty on multiple counts of first-degree murder and attempted murder.

Samour has said that he intends to seat 12 jurors and 12 alternates for the trial, which is expected to last five to six months. The thousands of prospective jurors — one of the largest pools in U.S. history — are being given an 18-page questionnaire with 77 questions about the death penalty, insanity and other topics.

After the questionnaires are reviewed by the judge as well as the defense and prosecution, some prospective jurors will be recalled for questioning. That step in the selection process is expected to begin in mid-February.

The prospective jurors, in addition to all the lawyers and potential witnesses, are forbidden from talking to the media. The trial, however, is permitted to be broadcast live whenever opening arguments begin, giving a national audience a first real look at Holmes and an understanding into his motivations.


— Jack Chesnutt