Use of theater shooting photos at trial debated
CENTENNIAL, Colo. (AP) -- Defense attorneys in the Colorado theater shooting case told a judge Tuesday that about 200 photos, many of dead and wounded victims, are too gruesome and would bias jurors if shown during trial.
That's only a portion of about 2,500 photos prosecutors want to introduce during the trial of James Holmes. Most of the videos and photos still in debate are of injured victims or of Holmes' apartment and car that include items defense attorneys say are irrelevant, such as posters on his walls and a gear shift in the shape of a skull.
Holmes pleaded not guilty by reason of insanity to charges of killing 12 people and injuring 70 in the attack at a Denver area movie theater on July 20, 2012. Prosecutors are seeking the death penalty.
Holmes' lawyers acknowledge he was the shooter but argue he was in the grips of a psychotic episode. At the Tuesday hearing, they also said they would not dispute that Holmes caused the injuries if prosecutors would limit graphic crime scene photos they said could traumatize jurors. Prosecutors said they are the best evidence of the crime.
"We have a number of people who have been horrifically injured, and our pictures are horrific as a result of that," Assistant Arapahoe County district attorney Karen Pearson said.
Judge Carlos A. Samour Jr. said there were too many photos to rule on each one, but he might offer guidance on which would be admissible.
Because Holmes' sanity will be a focal point of the trial, Pearson said jurors should see pictures and video showing posters in Holmes' apartment. The same is true of a gear shift in the shape of a skull found in Holmes' car, along with rifle cases, a handgun and ammunition. A lawyer for Holmes, Tamara Brady said they were meaningless but could offend jurors.
The posters "show his normality in this case," Pearson said. "They are the kinds of posters you'd expect to see in a 20-something man's apartment who is in grad school."
The photos are just some of the massive amounts of evidence prosecutors said could take up 400 square feet of courthouse space. Officials have reserved a jury room and a courthouse basement to accommodate the items, which could include victims' clothes but won't likely include biohazards or chemicals.
Jury selection is scheduled to start Jan. 20. Samour has said he plans to summon 9,000 prospective jurors, and opening arguments could start in May or June.
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