James Holmes' lawyers want questioning of potential jurors closed to public, press

The Associated Press
May 29, 2014 01:25 AM

Assistant Arapahoe County district attorney, Karen Pearson, arrives at the Arapahoe County Justice Center for a hearing in the 2012 Colorado theatre shooting case on Thursday, May 29, 2014 in Centennial, Colo. The hearing will focus on how prospective jurors should be interviewed and what they should be asked in a written questionnaire. James Holmes pleaded not guilty by reason of insanity to charges of killing 12 people and injuring 70 in the July 2012 attack. Prosecutors are seeking the death penalty. Jury selection is scheduled to start in October, and the judge has said it could take up to three months. (AP Photo/The Denver Post, Andy Cross, Pool)

CENTENNIAL, Colo. - Lawyers for the man suspected of killing 12 people in a mass shooting at a Colorado movie theatre told a judge Thursday they want the public and the media barred from the entire jury selection process.

Prosecutors agreed that individual questioning of potential jurors should be closed but said the last step should be kept open, when the panel of 12 jurors and 12 alternates will be chosen.

District Judge Carlos A. Samour Jr. did not say when he would rule on the request.

James Holmes is charged with murder and attempted murder in the July 2012 attack, which also left 70 people wounded. He has pleaded not guilty by reason of insanity. Prosecutors are seeking the death penalty.

Jury selection is scheduled to start Oct. 14, and Samour has said it could take up to three months. About 5,000 potential jurors will get a summons, and Samour expects 3,200 to 3,500 to respond.

The trial is expected to take another five months.

Holmes appeared in court Thursday in shackles and red jail clothes. His thick beard had grown back out after he shaved it off late last year. He didn't speak.

Defence attorney Daniel King argued that jury selection should be closed to protect potential jurors from harassment about their answers.

"That's extremely troubling to us," he said. He suggested a redacted transcript could be released after a jury is chosen, with prospective jurors' names blacked out.

Prosecutor Karen Pearson said individual questioning should be closed to prevent potential jurors from learning through media reports what they would be asked.

Steve Zansberg, an attorney representing media organizations including The Associated Press, said outside the hearing that he plans to file a brief next week arguing against closure on First Amendment grounds.

"The First Amendment presumes that all aspects of a trial, including jury selection, are going to be open," he said.

Samour said Holmes could be present during jury selection, except while members of the jury pool are filling out a lengthy questionnaire, when the judge and attorneys will also leave the room.

Prosecutors had objected, saying defence lawyers hadn't cited any legal authority for allowing Holmes to be present.

Separately, KCNC-TV reported Thursday that the District Attorney's Office has spent $685,462 on the case, but that doesn't include most of the salaries of the prosecutors involved.

Responding to an open records request from the station, officials said about $84,000 of that was pay and benefits for one prosecutor who worked exclusively on the Holmes case for a time. Other prosecutors' pay wasn't included because they also worked on additional cases.

Other expenses included about $426,000 for victim assistance services, paid through a federal grant, and $163,000 in expert witness fees, paid by the state.


Follow Dan Elliott at http://twitter.com/DanElliottAP

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