Potential jurors in the James Holmes case were asked about mental illness, the death penalty and if they'd already formed an opinion about whether Holmes is guilty of murdering twelve people and injuring seventy more by opening fire in an Aurora movie theater. They were also asked several biographical questions about their professions, number of children and level of education, in addition to questions about their hobbies, bumper stickers and favorite TV shows.
"Do you watch any court or police reality programs?" one question asked.
A copy of the blank 75-question jury questionnaire was released to the public on April 15 by Judge Carlos Samour. Members of the news media had requested the questionnaire, but Samour didn't release it until after a jury was selected. That happened on April 14, when 24 people were chosen to serve. Twelve of the 24 are alternates, though the jurors won't know which are the alternates until testimony is over. Opening statements are scheduled to begin on April 27 and the trial is expected to take months.
The 24 jurors were chosen from an initial pool of 9,000 Arapahoe County residents who were issued jury summonses. Jury selection began on January 20, with groups of 250 potential jurors being called at a time to the courthouse to hear remarks from Samour and fill out the questionnaire. Some of those potential jurors were later called back to be questioned by Samour and the attorneys until the pool was whittled down to the final 24 people.
So what were some of the initial questions potential jurors answered? Here's a sampling. We've also included the entire questionnaire at the end of this post.
"Have you ever had a pleasant or unpleasant experience with law enforcement?"
"Have you, a member of your family, or a close friend ever been a victim of a crime?"
"Have you ever witnessed a crime?"
"Do you ever follow criminal cases in the news?"
"What internet sites do you regularly visit?"
"Do you have an opinion as to whether people should be able to plead not guilty by reason of insanity?"
"Have you or any of your close friends or family members had any experience with mental illness?"
"Do you have any strong opinions — good or bad — about mental health providers?"
"Have you heard anything about this case?"
"Have you already formed any opinion about the guilt or innocence of Mr. Holmes?"
"Do you have any concerns about the emotional impact of viewing graphic crime scene evidence (including photographs and videos of people who are deceased) or any other impact that sitting as a juror in this case might have on you?"
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"Which of the following best represents your opinion of the death penalty?
a. I believe that the death penalty should be imposed in all cases of murder in the first degree, regardless of any mitigation that may be presented on the defendant’s behalf, and I would automatically return a verdict of death.
b. I believe that the death penalty is appropriate in some cases of murder in the first degree and, after hearing and considering all of the evidence, as well as the law provided by the judge, I could return a verdict of death if I believed it to be the appropriate penalty in this case.
c. I believe the death penalty is appropriate in some cases of murder in the first degree, but because of my personal beliefs and feelings, I could never vote to impose it myself.
d. I believe that the death penalty is never appropriate in any case of murder in the first degree and I would never return a verdict of death under any circumstances.
e. None of these represent my opinion. My opinion is:__________"
"Is there any reason you believe you cannot be a fair and impartial juror in this criminal case?"
Read the entire questionnaire below.