CENTENNIAL, Colo. – From a numbers standpoint, the Arapahoe County District Court had retained enough jurors through the selection process as of Thursday afternoon to seat a full jury for the Aurora theater shooting trial.
The court retained their 68th juror during an afternoon court session, which means even if both the defense and Arapahoe County District Attorney use all of their preemptive strikes in the third and final stage of jury selection, the court could still seat 24 individuals in the jury box — 12 jurors and 12 alternate jurors.
The defense and prosecution each have 22 preemptive strikes they can use — no questions asked — to disqualify jurors from the selection pool during group questioning, the final phase of jury selection.
Both counsels will likely use some of those strike on jurors who have strong expressed beliefs during individual questioning, but were retained because they said they could set those beliefs aside. For example, the prosecution may use a preemptive strike on a juror retained on Feb. 12 who said she felt the death penalty was “immoral” and she would “never” impose it except on an individual like Hitler.
Meanwhile, the defense may opt to strike a juror who wrote, “I think James Holmes is evil” on her questionnaire. She was retained earlier this week after insisting that was an opinion she could set aside.
Individual questioning, the second and current phase of jury selection, will continue until April 10. Arapahoe County District Judge Carlos Samour Jr. hopes to have around 130 prospective jurors by then. With 19 days of questioning complete and 19 more to go, the court reached the halfway point for this phase of jury selection on Thursday, much faster than expected.
Group questioning will begin on April 13 and is expected to last no longer than two days.
Opening statements for the trial are slated to start on April 21, also earlier than the originally projected date in June. However, opening statements could be pushed back to April 27 depending on whether a prospective juror who is getting married the week of April 21 is seated on the jury.
The defense, who claimed they weren’t prepared for the trial even when it was scheduled for June, is expected to renew their change of venue request before opening statements. Samour said Thursday that after he has read the motion, he will determine whether oral arguments from both sides are necessary or if he will simply rule on it in writing.
Following up on a motion they filed last Thursday to keep graphic images from the public and the media, the prosecution has proposed installing a monitor on a wall close to the jury box facing the court. In that scenario, only the parties, the jury and the judge would be able to see these images, not the courtroom and, by extension, the general public.
The motion regarding graphic images has not been finalized yet, and is expected to be discussed in a March 19 hearing.