James Holmes hearing: Will jurors be asked about favorite TV shows?
Accused Aurora theater shooter James Holmes was back in court today for the first of several motions hearings that will take place over the next three weeks.
Today, prosecutors and Holmes's defense attorneys discussed which questions will appear on the questionnaire given to the 6,000 prospective jurors the judge plans to summon and whether records from Match.com and Adult Friend Finder accounts allegedly belonging to Holmes can be used as evidence at his trial, which lawyers said may last several months.
Jury summonses will be sent out no later than January 3, with jury selection to begin on February 10, Judge Carlos Samour said today. Prospective jurors will be called to the courthouse in groups of three hundred people in order to fill out a questionnaire -- a process that is expected to take until at least February 20. Samour said he hopes that about 4,000 of the 6,000 people summoned will show up.
After the lawyers review the prospective jurors' completed questionnaires, they'll have the opportunity to ask them questions individually in an attempt to narrow the group down to between 120 and 150 prospective jurors, a process they estimated would take eight weeks. From that pool, 24 jurors will be chosen, twelve of whom will serve as alternates.
Prosecutors and Holmes's defense attorneys admitted they could not agree on the questions that should appear on the jury questionnaire. Prosecutors would like to include more background-type questions in order to weed out those people who want to serve on the jury for what prosecutor Karen Pearson called improper reasons, including because they want "their fifteen minutes of fame."
"We need to learn as much about these people as we possibly can," she said.
But defense attorney Daniel King argued that asking which television shows people watch or what bumper stickers they have on their cars isn't worthwhile. "The value of those questions in the modern age is negligible," he said.
Instead, the defense would like to include an entire section of questions on how prospective jurors feel about mental illness, which prosecutors said was okay by them. (Holmes's attorneys have repeatedly said he suffers from a mental illness, and he has pleaded not guilty by reason of insanity.) Though the lawyers were careful to avoid revealing any of the actual questions that will appear on the questionnaire, they did mention one: Do you have an opinion -- good or bad -- about mental health providers?
Andy Cross/Denver Post James Holmes in court in June.
The two sides also disagreed about whether to include a question asking prospective jurors if they could set aside their biases and decide the case based on law. Prosecutors would like to include it, but Holmes's defense attorneys say it's unfair since most people don't know the intricacies of the law.
Ultimately, Samour will decide which questions appear on the questionnaire.
Lawyers also debated a motion filed by Holmes's defense attorneys to suppress evidence gathered from Match.com and AdultFriendFinder.com. Testimony presented at a preliminary hearing in January showed that Holmes created accounts on both dating websites that featured the tagline, "Will you visit me in prison?"
Lawyers' arguments mostly centered around whether Holmes's "subscriber information" -- the name, address and credit card information he allegedly submitted to the websites in order to join -- was properly seized and can therefore be used as evidence at trial. Holmes's attorney say no; they argued that people who submit personal information of that type on the Internet have an expectation that that information will remain private.
But prosecutors disagreed. "These are not intercepted communications," prosecutor Rich Orman said. "These are business records."
The judge did not immediately rule. Holmes will be back in court on Thursday.
Continue to see the full schedule of which motions will be discussed in court over the next three weeks -- as well as the defense's motion to suppress the records from Match.com and AdultFriendFinder.com and the prosecution's response.