Court orders outline more rules for James Holmes' upcoming trial in the theater shooting case
Last Updated: 169 days ago
CENTENNIAL, Colo. - The jury selected for the Aurora movie theater shooting case won't be sequestered and will be allowed to use personal electronics on their own time, according to new court orders detailing more rules for the upcoming trial.
Judge Carlos Samour also ruled that defendant James Holmes will not be in handcuffs and shackles during the trial.
Samour made the rulings in response to motions from Holmes' defense team -- rulings that were posted Thursday in seven court documents that outline additional rules for the upcoming trial.
The documents dictate rules for courthouse security, jury selection and how the jury will be handled during a trial scheduled to last at least four months.
Holmes is accused of opening fire in a crowded movie theater during a premiere of the latest Batman film on July 20. Twelve people were killed, 58 were wounded and 12 others were killed fleeing the theater.
Holmes' trial on 166 counts is currently scheduled to start in February 2014. The state is seeking the death penalty.
About court security, the judge wrote that his rules were determined after weighing the defense's concerns about a "prejudicial" display of security against "concerns related to safety and security."
Quoting case precedent, Samour agreed that requiring Holmes to wear a jail jumpsuit or shackles in front of the jury would be prejudicial.
"Instead, he will wear a harness under his clothing which will not be visible to the jury. The harness will have a cable which will be anchored to the floor. Although the cable may be visible, its color and appearance will allow it to be masked by computer cables at defense counsel's table," Samour's order states.
Earlier this month, the judge decided Holmes would be allowed to wear civilian clothing during the trial.
Later in that same order, Samour writes that all but four of the sheriff's deputies in the courtroom during the trial will be dressed in civilian clothing and all deputies will be instructed to keep "a reasonable distance from the defense counsel's table to allow the defendant and his attorneys to confer confidentially."
Samour overruled objections to security outside the courthouse and on the roof of the building.
A second order dictates how the court will interact with jurors during the trial.
The judge says contact with the jury will be limited to a group of "trusted and trained" staff members. If a juror has a question, it has to be written down. The staff will not be allowed to respond if the question is asked orally.
In a third document, Samour denied a request from Holmes' attorneys to have "a method of complete preservation of all off-the-record requests for excusals and postponements in this case."
In the fourth court order, Samour agreed to preserve many - but not all - documents related to the selection of a jury. The items that will be kept include, in part: juror questionnaires, the lists of prospective jurors and communications from the jury commissioner.
The county plans to call 5,000 prospective jurors for the trial -- 3,200 of those are going to fill out questionnaires.
During the orientation of prospective jurors, the fifth document orders, defense attorneys will be allowed to address the jurors. Their remarks must be approved by the court in advance.
In that document, Samour goes on to order that the court will review questionnaires along with the attorneys for both sides.
Once 120-150 prospective jurors are qualified, the court will conduct orientation and examination in a jury room. There, attorneys will be allowed to "address the prospective jurors at that time through brief, non-argumentative statements, so long as such statements have been shared with opposing counsel and have been approved by the court."
After the jury and up to 12 alternates are selected, the judge's orders in the sixth and seventh documents will come into play.
While the jurors are serving, Samour decided it would be "unreasonable and unfair" to prevent them from possessing any electronics. He said he would frequently remind them of the rules for their use of those devices, but would only ban them in the courtroom and during deliberations.
The jury will not be sequestered, Samour decided, due to considerations of the cost and the impact sequestering the jury would have on the pool of potential candidates.
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