CENTENNIAL, Colo. – Jury selection in the Colorado theater shooting case is going faster than expected, and attorneys will start questioning individual jurors Wednesday, about a week sooner than first thought.
Those chosen will decide whether James Holmes was legally insane at the time of the July 20, 2012, attack during a showing of a Batman movie in a Denver suburb that killed 12 people and injured 70 others.
Holmes, 27, is charged with multiple counts of first-degree murder and attempted murder and has pleaded not guilty by reason of insanity. If jurors find him not guilty for that reason, he would be committed indefinitely to the state psychiatric hospital.
Prosecutors dispute that Holmes was insane and will ask jurors to convict him and recommend the death penalty, though Colorado has only executed one person in the last 40 years.
A look at the key issues in the case:
BY THE NUMBERS:
— An unprecedented 9,000 people in Arapahoe County were summoned as part of the jury pool.
— 2,000 were told they did not have to report to fill out questionnaires because enough promising candidates had been identified.
— More than 1,000 were dismissed for various reasons.
— Hundreds will return for individual questioning.
— 120 will be chosen to return again to be questioned in groups.
— 12 jurors and 12 alternates will be chosen.
WHY SOME PROSPECTIVE JURORS WERE EXCUSED:
Potential jurors cited everything from military service and panic attacks to upcoming weddings and health issues as reasons they shouldn't have to serve. Judge Carlos A. Samour Jr. released more than 1,000 people because they couldn't speak English, weren't citizens, brought doctor's notes, had family problems or weren't Arapahoe County residents. One woman was released after she tearfully told a judge her mother had been murdered and she was wounded in an unrelated attack. Another was so distraught after being told she had to return that she broke down in tears and tore out clumps of her hair. She was dismissed.
QUESTIONS THEY WILL FACE:
In the second phase of jury selection, attorneys will question possible jurors in depth about their views on capital punishment, mental illness and the criminal justice system. Prosecutors will try to find jurors who have no reservations about the death penalty, while defense attorneys will look for those sympathetic to mental illness and uneasy with the idea of executing a person.
WHAT JURY LIFE WILL BE LIKE:
Research has shown jurors in death penalty cases have suffered nightmares, flashbacks and symptoms similar to post-traumatic stress disorder. Jurors will be allowed to go home every night but can't discuss the case with anyone. After testimony ends, they can only discuss the case with each other during deliberations. The trial is expected to run through October, and jurors will be shown graphic crime scene photos and hear harrowing testimony from witnesses and survivors. Counseling will be available to them, but only after they've reached a verdict and the trial is over.
WHAT DOES IT PAY:
Not much. Jurors will be paid just $50 a day. Colorado law says employers have to pay jurors at least somewhat, but only for the first three days.
About 420 people were watching a midnight showing of "The Dark Knight Rises" when a masked figure standing near the screen tossed gas canisters into the audience and opened fire. Holmes surrendered to police outside the theater. His attorneys have acknowledged that he was the gunman but said he was in the grip of a psychotic episode. The people killed included a 6-year-old girl, two active-duty servicemen, a single mom and an aspiring broadcaster.