Judge dismisses fifth juror in Colorado movie massacre trial

By Keith Coffman
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James Holmes sits in court for an advisement hearing at the Arapahoe County Justice Center in Centennial

James Holmes sits in court for an advisement hearing at the Arapahoe County Justice Center in Centennial, Colorado June 4, 2013. REUTERS/Andy Cross/Pool

By Keith Coffman

DENVER (Reuters) - The judge in the Colorado movie theater massacre trial on Wednesday dismissed a fifth juror, whose disclosure last month that she recognized a survivor of the July 2012 shooting rampage had prompted the defense to seek her removal.

The dismissal leaves a panel of 19 jurors - 14 women and five men - to hear the murder trial of former neuroscience graduate student James Holmes, who is charged with killing 12 people and wounded 70 others during the premiere of a Batman film at a Denver-area multiplex.

Holmes, 27, has pleaded not guilty by reason of insanity to multiple charges of first-degree murder and attempted murder. He could face the death penalty if convicted.

Two court-appointed psychiatrists have testified they concluded that although Holmes was seriously mentally ill, the California native was sane when he planned and carried out the attack.

Arapahoe County District Judge Carlos Samour said he was letting the latest juror go because she had not been entirely forthcoming about knowing a wounded survivor. The juror disclosed that information to the judge after the witness testified during the trial's second week.

Samour previously dismissed four jurors, including three last week on the grounds their objectivity was tainted after hearing about a prosecutor's Twitter message, and after they discussed the possibility of a mistrial.

The judge dismissed a fourth juror on Monday whose brother-in-law was recently the victim of a shooting and who had become emotional in front of other panel members.

Throughout the trial, now in its eighth week of testimony, the prosecution has called survivors who have delivered emotional accounts of being wounded in the theater shootings.

Prosecutors say they will wrap up their case on Friday with testimony from Ashley Moser, whose 6-year-old daughter, Veronica, was the youngest of those slain.

After a three-day break, Holmes' lawyers will begin presenting evidence next Thursday.

Prosecutor Lisa Teesch-Maguire told the judge the delay had upset some families of victims who moved to Colorado for the trial.

Samour said he understood their concerns but that some delays were unavoidable given the length of the trial.

"The reality is that we're ahead of schedule," he said, noting the case may go to the jury sometime next month, weeks earlier than initially expected.

Public defender Daniel King told the judge he anticipated the defense case would take less than two weeks.


(Reporting by Keith Coffman; Writing by Daniel Wallis; Editing by Susan Heavey and Peter Cooney)