Updates to our Terms of Use

We are updating our Terms of Use. Please carefully review the updated Terms before proceeding to our website.

Sunday, May 19, 2024 | Back issues
Courthouse News Service Courthouse News Service

Accused Mass Murderer|Seeks Change of Venue

DENVER (CN) - Attorneys for accused mass murderer James Holmes want his trial moved out of Arapahoe County due to "unrelenting" media coverage of the "Batman" movie bloodbath.

The motion, filed Friday and unsealed Monday, claims that local and national news media are making it hard to give Holmes a fair trial.

"The pretrial news coverage has been at best consistent and comprehensive," the motion states. "At worst, the media has been incessant and unrelenting. Between local television, newspaper and internet coverage, there is not a single aspect of this case that has been open to the public that that media has not reported on. As a result, the public is aware of far more than just the charges and the general nature of the allegations.

"Instead, the media has time and again informed the public of numerous specific details of the events that occurred at the Century 16 Theater and at Mr. Holmes' apartment. The media has repeatedly published articles containing emotional victim impact evidence. The pre-trial coverage has included a mostly one-sided detailed history of Mr. Holmes' life that undermines the burden of proof related to sanity. Reporters have published inadmissible opinion evidence from several victims disparaging Mr. Holmes and his defense. Recent newspaper coverage has included a detailed analysis of the pretrial non-capital as well as some capital motions. In that coverage, news agencies have instructed the public about specific and highly prejudicial evidence, some of which this Court has deemed inadmissible."

The defense cited an expert who conducted a study of the pre-trial coverage of the shooting. The expert lists more than 800 articles from the Denver Post, DVDs of televised stories from the Denver area TV news stations, and an editorial from the Aurora Sentinel newspaper, about whether defense attorneys would be able to find 12 people who would be unbiased enough to qualify as jurors.

Holmes' attorneys claim that though the entire Denver-Metro area has heard of the shooting, the media coverage is most influential on those who live in the county where the shooting happened.

"The Aurora Theater Shooting has had an unparalleled impact on Arapahoe County, not only because of the media coverage of the case, but also simply because of the size and scale of the tragedy," the motion states. "Neither the media nor the public has received a fair and balanced presentation of the facts surrounding this case, or of James Holmes and his mental health, based on the information concerning the facts that has been made public thus far. Unfortunately, the palpable effects of this case have festered within a community surrounded by unremitting prejudicial news coverage. As a result, prejudgment abounds, including the vilification of James Holmes as evil rather than a severely mentally ill young man. It is precisely this environment that will prevent Arapahoe County jurors from providing Mr. Holmes a fair trial on the issues of guilt, sanity, as well as the appropriate penalty."

Holmes is accused of shooting to death 12 people and injuring dozens more inside a movie theater during a midnight showing of the movie, "Batman: The Dark Knight Rises" in 2012. He is charged with 166 criminal counts, including murder and weapons charges and has pleaded not guilty to all of them by reason of insanity.

Prosecutors have indicated they will seek the death penalty.

The trial is set for Oct. 14.

Categories / Uncategorized

Subscribe to Closing Arguments

Sign up for new weekly newsletter Closing Arguments to get the latest about ongoing trials, major litigation and hot cases and rulings in courthouses around the U.S. and the world.