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James Holmes’ Lawyers Want Closed Jury Selection

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James Holmes in court on March 12, 2013 (credit: CBS)

James Holmes in court on March 12, 2013 (credit: CBS)

CENTENNIAL, Colo. (AP) — Lawyers for the man suspected of killing 12 people in a mass shooting at a Colorado movie theater told a judge Thursday they want the public and the media barred from the entire jury selection process.

Prosecutors agreed that individual questioning of potential jurors should be closed but said the last step should be kept open, when the panel of 12 jurors and 12 alternates will be chosen.

District Judge Carlos A. Samour Jr. did not say when he would rule on the request.

James Holmes is charged with murder and attempted murder in the July 2012 attack, which also left 70 people wounded. He has pleaded not guilty by reason of insanity. Prosecutors are seeking the death penalty.

Jury selection is scheduled to start Oct. 14, and Samour has said it could take up to three months. About 5,000 potential jurors will get a summons, and Samour expects 3,200 to 3,500 to respond.

The trial is expected to take another five months.

Holmes appeared in court Thursday in shackles and red jail clothes. His thick beard had grown back out after he shaved it off late last year. He didn’t speak.

Defense attorney Daniel King argued that jury selection should be closed to protect potential jurors from harassment about their answers.

“That’s extremely troubling to us,” he said. He suggested a redacted transcript could be released after a jury is chosen, with prospective jurors’ names blacked out.

Prosecutor Karen Pearson said individual questioning should be closed to prevent potential jurors from learning through media reports what they would be asked.

Steve Zansberg, an attorney representing media organizations including The Associated Press, said outside the hearing that he plans to file a brief next week arguing against closure on First Amendment grounds.

“The First Amendment presumes that all aspects of a trial, including jury selection, are going to be open,” he said.

Samour said Holmes could be present during jury selection, except while members of the jury pool are filling out a lengthy questionnaire, when the judge and attorneys will also leave the room.

Prosecutors had objected, saying defense lawyers hadn’t cited any legal authority for allowing Holmes to be present.

By Dan Elliott, AP Writer (© Copyright 2014 The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.)

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