CENTENNIAL, Colo. -- Jury selection will begin Tuesday in the trial of Aurora theater shooter James Holmes. A judge denied a final delay attempt from Holmes' defense team on Wednesday.
Holmes has pleaded not guilty by reason of mental disease or defect to the killing of 12 and the injuring of 70 more during the July 20, 2012 shooting.
Though jury selection will commence next week, that process is not to be confused with the start of the trial. A group of 9,000 must be narrowed down to 12 with 12 alternates during the selection process -- a process that could take up to five months. The first group of potential jurors will arrive for the morning session at 8:40 Tuesday. The afternoon session starts at 1:10.
The trial itself, the date of which has been changed five times, may very well not begin until much closer to the third anniversary of the Aurora theater shooting.
In a 16-page ruling denying the latest motion for continuance, Arapahoe County District Court Judge Carlos Samour offered a sweeping condemnation of this last ditch effort from Holmes' defense team, writing that he had “no ambivalence or vacillation whatsoever in concluding that the defense has failed to establish that it needs a continuance.”
In particular, Samour noted that both the defense and prosecution were informed that if they wished to file any final motions to continue the trial, such motions had to be filed before the court carried out a Dec. 11 order to issue 9,000 jury summonses.
The order was indeed carried out on that date, and jury summonses were issued on Dec. 15.
It wasn't until a month later, Samour wrote, that Holmes' defense team informed the court that they disagreed with parts of the jury summons order and wanted to file for a continuance.
Samour went on to address what he called "a myriad of reasons" why the defense was seeking this particular continuance. Those reasons included the health of the daughter of an investigator hired by the defense, the defense looking into hiring new experts, new information and witnesses introduced by the prosecution, statements made by the prosecution about how much time and resources the defense was devoting to the case and the exact number of definable attorneys the defense was or was not utilizing.
Samour seemed to sum up the frustrations of many victims and their families, who have waited more than two years to see the admitted shooter stand trial, in the following passage:
This case has been pending for two and a half years, and much of this time has been idle, as there has not been a lot of courtroom time required and the two compulsory sanity examinations took the better part of a year to complete. … Regardless of how ‘enormous’ this case is, the ‘unbelievable amount of information’ that must be processed, and the complexity of the mental health issues involved, it is irrefutable that defense counsel, their expert witnesses, and their staff have had an abundant amount of time to prepare for trial. If, given the seemingly unlimited resources and manpower dedicated to this case, the defense cannot be ready for trial after so much time, the Court fears the defense will never announce ready for trial.
In his conclusion, Samour made it clear that "the Court is ever mindful that this is a death penalty case and that the defendant is entitled to a fair trial and a reliable sentencing proceeding." That statement might please Colorado Democrats, who have fought to outlaw the death penalty in the state, as well as Gov. John Hickenlooper, who controversially granted a temporary reprieve from execution to death row inmate Nathan Dunlap last year.
"Indeed the record reflects that the Court has done its best to be deliberate, thorough, and careful in ruling on the numerous motions filed throughout this litigation," Samour wrote. "But this case is ready to proceed to trial."