Cinemark Says It Couldn’t Have Expected Massacre

     DENVER (CN) — An attorney for 27 survivors and family members of the “Batman” movie mass murders told a jury Tuesday that Cinemark Theaters had an obligation to protect the 12 people who were murdered and 70 who were wounded, and failed to do it.
     In his opening argument, Marc Bern said Cinemark failed to hire enough security for the midnight premier of “Batman: The Dark Knight Rises” on July 19-20, 2012, and negligently allowed its exit doors to remain ajar due to lack of silent alarms.
     James Holmes propped open an exit door, dressed himself in ballistic gear, took assault rifles from his car, re-entered the theater 20 minutes into the movie and committed mass murder. He is serving life in prison for 165 counts of first-degree murder and attempted murder.
     “People have said to me, ‘You’re suing the theater? What could the theater have done?'” Bern told the jury. “Cinemark failed to do a number of things. Their failures were a cause of what happened.”
     Bern said a major mistake was failing to have closed-circuit TV around the perimeter of the theater, which allowed Holmes to photograph the theater before the massacre without his behavior being noticed.
     “If there had been, they would have known that he was taking photos of the theater,” Bern said. Holmes meticulously planned the murders for months.
     Bern also blamed Cinemark for failing to hire armed security guards the night of the premiere. It hired guards for Friday, Saturday, and Sunday showings, but not that Thursday, Bern said, though more than 1,000 people were expected for the premiere. He said at least two officers should have been on site, and there should have been perimeter patrols.
     “They look for things like suspicious vehicles,” Bern said. “They’re in their full police uniforms. They’re not just playing.”
     But on the night of the shooting, Bern said, “There were zero [security guards].”
     He said Cinemark’s employees failed to follow policies and check that the exit doors were shut: that the theater failed to “be prepared in a post – 9/11 world.”
     “The shooter says in his notebook that he picked the theater because they lacked proper security,” Bern said.
     Cinemark’s attorney Kevin Taylor challenged that. Showing a map of the neighborhood, he said that Holmes’ original home was a 5-minute drive from the Century 10 theater in Aurora.
     “He went to this theater because it was close to his house,” Taylor said.
     Taylor said the massacre could not have been predicted, and that Cinemark could not have been expected to anticipate such an attack. He said it was more likely to “be killed by a bee sting,” than in a mass murder.
     Taylor said the murders were due to Holmes’ mental illness – not Cinemark’s negligence.
     “He was a genius,” Taylor said. “Unfortunately he became mad as a hatter.
     “Cinemark’s policies and procedures were all appropriate.”
     Taylor detailed the measures Holmes took before the shooting, including his heavy ballistic gear and packing 700 rounds of ammunition in his car, including “cop killers,” or armor-piercing bullets.
     “This is what the man did to prepare for his killing,” Taylor said as he flipped through pictures of Holmes’ weaponry and body armor. “Frightening.”
     Taylor told the jury that 85 percent of Cinemark’s business came on Fridays, Saturdays, and Sundays, and that it made sense it would hire security on those days rather than weekdays.
     The premiere from the “Dark Knight” trilogy was expected to attract a “fanboy” crowd, Taylor said.
     “Fanboys, people that love the movies, are among the best-behaved crowds,” Taylor said. “They want to see the movie.”
     The massacre happened because of Holmes’ mania, not because of Cinemark’s failures, he said. “Nothing: cameras, no alarm would have stopped him,” Taylor said. “This horrible tragedy is simply not the fault of Cinemark.”
     The expert witnesses Taylor will call include a criminologist, a statistician, a tactical attacks expert and a movie theater security specialist.
     Arapahoe County Judge Phillip Douglass released one of the eight jurors for a scheduling conflict. Six regular jurors and an alternate remain.
     The trial is expected to last three weeks.

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