CENTENNIAL, Colo. — A juror in the Aurora theater shooting case was dismissed by the court Monday morning after saying one of her family members was the victim of what the judge characterized as a “random shooting” last week.
This is the fourth juror released by the court in less than a week, and it cuts the number of alternate jurors available in this case down to eight.
The defense team for James Holmes, the admitted gunman in the July 20, 2012 shooting that left 12 dead and 70 injured, requested that Juror 901 be excused on June 11. Their request came after the juror’s second appearance before the court to detail an incident that she said invovled her brother-in-law.
Juror 901, a white woman in her 30s or 40s, first appeared before District Court Judge Carlos Samour Jr. on the afternoon of June 10 to ask for permission to visit Denver Health to see her brother-in-law, who she said had been the victim of a “horrible accident.” Jurors must ask permission to visit any location involved in the case, and Denver Health is the facility where Holmes was taken in November 2013 after his alleged psychotic break.
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The next day , Juror 901 said she wanted to be “honest” with the court, and explained her brother-in-law had actually “been shot three times” in a June 9 incident.
Despite the fact that her family member had been the victim of a random shooting similar to the one at the heart of the theater shooting case, Juror 901 said the incident would not impact her fairness or impartiality as a juror. She also told Samour that she had only told fellow jurors that her brother-in-law was the victim of an accident, not a shooting.
Samour said he would consider the defense’s request to release the juror over the weekend.
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Explaining his ruling to dismiss Juror 901 on Monday, Samour indicated that the juror “became emotional” when describing the incident, which, in sptie of her claims, gave him doubts about her ability to remain fair and impartial.
Samour also expressed concerns that Juror 901 “may have not been completely candid and forthcoming” about the incident.
In her first meeting with the court on the morning of June 10, Juror 901 mentioned there were reports “all over the news” regarding what she characterized as “an accident” involving her brother-in-law. Samour indicated the only reports that appeared similar to the situation the juror described, including one on KDVR.com first published at 6:11 a.m. on June 10, described the incident as a shooting.
And yet it wasn’t until June 11 — after saying she wanted to be tell the court “the truth” — that Juror 901 revealed the incident was a shooting.
“There was no mention that initially, this was believed to be an accident of some sort, and that later, authorities determined it was a shooting,” Samour said. “I believe that Juror 901 knew by 1:30 p.m., when she first talked to me, that this was a shooting if for no other reason than that she stated she was aware of these news reports.”
As her excusal was explained to her in open court Monday morning, the juror insisted that her family had only told her that the incident involving her brother-in-law had been an accident, and that she didn’t learn until June 11 that the incident was a shooting.
Last week, three jurors were released after they were accused by a fellow juror of consuming or being aware of outside media reports on the trial.
Though these juror excusals could be brought up on appeal by the defense, they will not impact the trial so long as the court reaches deliberations, which are tentatively expected to commence in early August, with 12 jurors.
Of the 20 remaining jurors, only Samour and both counsels know which 12 are the actual jurors and which of the remaining eight are alternates.
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