The decision earlier this month of 18th Judicial District Judge Carlos Samour allowing accused Aurora theater shooter James Holmes to plead not guilty by reason of insanity keeps the case moving forward -- and it's sure to be one of the most massive prosecutions in the State of Colorado's history. How big? An indication comes in a newly released document from Judge Samour -- one of two on view below. In it, Samour estimates that the number of potential jurors who'll receive summonses in the matter could reach 3,500.
Holmes is accused of killing twelve people and wounding seventy during a midnight screening of The Dark Knight Rises at the Aurora Century 16 theater on July 20, 2012. He faces more than 160 counts.
Among the documents related to the matter that were made public on Friday is an order responding to a defense motion asking for the creation of a jury questionnaire. Samour writes that he is granting the motion in part due to the large pool of jurors that will be considered. Here's an excerpt:
The Court anticipates that as many as 3,500 individuals may respond to jury summonses issues in this case. Under the circumstances, the Court agrees with the defendant that a jury questionnaire will be helpful and will save time and effort during the jury selection process.
The 18th Judicial District includes portions of Arapahoe, Douglas, Elbert and Lincoln counties, as seen in this map:
How likely is it that you will receive a summons if you live in the district? Still rather small, as measured in statistics offered in this official document about the area, dated January 2013, but not so remote that the prospect can be dismissed.
The document begins: "With an estimated district population of 882,041, the Courts of the Eighteenth District serve the most populated judicial district in Colorado. The District population includes Arapahoe County (565,630), Douglas County (288,225), Elbert County (23,287), and Lincoln County (5,169)."
By our reckoning, the 3,500 potential jurors makes up roughly four-tenths of 1 percent of the 882,041 district population -- but the actual number should be higher, since the total presumably includes many people too young to serve on a jury. Does that mean the chances of receiving a Holmes case summons are one in a hundred? Maybe. Higher than that? Possibly.
Another document released on Friday tackles the issue of questioning jurors separately, beyond earshot of other potential panel members, as the Holmes defense team requested. Samour granted this motion, too, but only when it comes to two topics: "death qualification issues" (whether the individual could vote for the death penalty) and "publicity issues" (how much the person has heard about the case and what impact the coverage might have on the ability to be impartial).
In Samour's view, denying the defendants' request in these areas "would risk tainting the entire panel of prospective jurors" -- but requiring possible members to be isolated for questioning on all other subjects, too, "is unnecessary and would be impractical and inefficient."
As it is, the process will be laborious, with lawyers on both sides reading over literally thousands of questionnaires to determine how many people they'll interview in person, in order to find the twelve who'll decide if Holmes understood the difference between right and wrong before bringing so much death and heartache to the loved ones of those who chose to attend a movie that fateful night in July.
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More from our Aurora Theater Shooting archive: "Photos: James Holmes allowed to plead not guilty by reason of insanity."