James Holmes's attorneys ask judge to move theater shooting trial out of Arapahoe County
Should the trial of Aurora theater shooter James Holmes be held in Arapahoe County, where the crime occurred? No, say Holmes's attorneys. In a motion made public this week (and on view below), they request a change of venue, arguing that the citizens of Arapahoe County have a "unique and tangible connection to this case" that would make it difficult for them to be impartial. In addition, Holmes's attorneys say, the "massive, pervasive and prejudicial" media coverage of the case -- much of it focused on the suffering of the victims -- has tainted the jury pool.
"The pretrial news coverage has been at best consistent and comprehensive," Holmes's attorneys write in the motion. "At worst, the media has been incessant and unrelenting."
An analysis by Dr. Bryan Edelman, a trial consultant with the California-based firm Trial Innovations, found that between the date of the theater shooting -- July 20, 2012 -- and November 9, 2013, the Denver Post printed 896 articles that referenced the shooting. Many of the stories, Edelman found, focused on the victims and their families. The same was true for television station 9News and the weekly Aurora Sentinel.
"In covering the good and courageous things the victims have done," Holmes's attorneys write in the motion, "the coverage often simplistically and inaccurately implied that Mr. Holmes was 'evil,' as opposed to mentally ill."
Holmes is accused of killing twelve people and injuring seventy more by opening fire during a midnight showing of The Dark Knight Rises at the Aurora Century 16 theater. He has pleaded not guilty by reason of insanity. His trial is scheduled to begin in October.
The defense's motion also takes a close look at the Aurora Sentinel's coverage. Holmes's attorneys note that the Sentinel posted about 600 stories online between July 20, 2012 and March 31, 2014, and ran more than 215 stories in print. The paper even has a special tab on its website called, "MASSACRE COVERAGE," the attorneys point out.
Andy Cross/Denver Post James Holmes and public defender Daniel King in court in June 2013.
The media coverage has been in-depth, Holmes's attorneys argue, including "graphic and sensational firsthand accounts" of the crime and "blow-by-blow" reporting of the preliminary hearing, at which the prosecution presented some of its evidence. And they don't like how Holmes -- or his defense -- has been portrayed.
"On numerous occasions, the legitimate defense of insanity was not described as such," they write. "Rather, it was described as Mr. Holmes's 'best hope of avoiding the death penalty, and possibly his only hope, given the weight of the evidence.'"
Continue for more on Holmes's motion for a change of venue.