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Friday, December 8, 2023 | Back issues
Courthouse News Service Courthouse News Service

Photos Debated in ‘Dark Knight’ Shooter Case

CENTENNIAL, Colo. (CN) - Prosecutors in charge of the case against accused mass murderer James Holmes' asked a judge for permission to show the jury more than 2,500 photos and a few videos when the case comes to trial next year.

Holmes, 26, is accused of opening fire on a crowd of moviegoers during the midnight premiere of "Batman: The Dark Knight Rises" at the Aurora, Colo. Century 16 theater in 2012. Twelve people died and more than 70 people were injured in the attack.

Holmes has pleaded not guilty by reason of insanity, and prosecutors have indicated they will seek the death penalty.

On Tuesday, attorneys on both sides argued over which photos were appropriate to during a hearing before Judge Carlos Samour at the Arapahoe County Justice Center. Holmes' parents silently watched as attorneys discussed some of the planned submissions in depth.

Both sides argued at length over 15 images that might be inflammatory and affect jurors' judgment. One of those photos showed the gear shift in Holmes' car, which was outfitted with a skull.

"That has no relevance to the case at all, but some juror could be put off by that gearshift," Tamara Brady, Holmes' public defender, said.

Prosecutor Karen Pearson countered that the photo is relevant and would illustrate Holmes' state of mind for the jury.

"There is nothing inherent about that that is prejudicial," Pearson said.

The defense also questioned the use of video footage taken by a bomb robot deployed to Holmes' apartment during the investigation into the mass shooting. Specifically, Brady objected to posters hanging in the kitchen and on Holmes' refrigerator.

"If they are shown, we object to it," Brady replied. "What posters are in the kitchen or on the refrigerator have absolutely no relevance in this case."

Pearson disagreed, saying the pictures might chip away at Holmes' insanity defense.

"It shows the normality in his relation to his sanity," Pearson said. "It is something you would expect to see in a 20-year-old grad student's apartment."

Both attorneys also discussed photos that detailed victims' injuries, with the defense questioning whether the prosecution should be allowed show a graphic photo of a woman being transported out of the theater. The prosecution argued that the photo is relevant.

"It's for testimony at trial about how this person was transported out and how the officers had to keep her insides in. They were very catastrophic injuries," Pearson said.

Brady said she has a problem with showing the photo because it "shows medical intervention." Pearson disagreed.

"Your honor, a majority of these photos show medical intervention," she said. "Clearly, there was medical intervention. That's why she's still alive."

By the end of the discussion, Samour admitted that it will be hard for him to rule on all the photos ahead of the trial.

"There's no way I can issue a ruling where for sure these pictures are admissible and these pictures are not," he said, indicating that he preferred to rule on most of the photos at trial.

The judge also discussed the timeline of the trial, stating that Dec. 8 will be the last hearing to discuss pretrial readiness. The next day, on Dec. 9, the court will send out 9,000 jury summons, he said.

Samour added that he anticipates the jury will be chosen by May, with opening arguments beginning by June.

The trial will last four to five months, Samour said.

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