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Lawyers Argue Over James Holmes’ Fingerprints

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James Holmes in court in June 2013 (credit: CBS)

James Holmes in court in June 2013 (credit: CBS)

CENTENNIAL, Colo. (AP) - Crime analysts testified Monday about how they matched fingerprint evidence in the Colorado theater shooting investigation but provided little new information about the 2012 massacre that left 12 people dead and 70 wounded.

The primary purpose of the pretrial hearing was to determine whether testimony about fingerprint comparison should be allowed at the trial of James Holmes, who is charged with multiple counts of murder and attempted murder.

Fingerprints are not expected to play a major role in the trial, scheduled to start Dec. 8, but defense attorneys appear to be trying to weaken any aspect of the prosecution case.

Holmes’ attorneys have acknowledged he was the shooter but say he was in the midst of a psychotic episode at the time. He pleaded not guilty by reason of insanity. Prosecutors are seeking the death penalty.

FBI analyst Stacy Furman testified she matched Holmes’ fingerprints 121 times on evidence taken from his apartment, including on a gun manual.

Sandra Wiese, an analyst for the police in the Denver suburb of Aurora, where the shootings took place, said she identified some of the victims through fingerprints and checked other prints found in the theater.

Prosecutors asked them about a few specific prints and projected some on a TV screen. The images were meant to illustrate the comparison process, and there was no indication the prints shown would be part of the trial. Except for the fingerprint on the manual, the witnesses did not say where the prints were found.

Defense lawyers questioned the reliability of fingerprint comparison and repeatedly asked about the lack of mandatory nationwide standards for training.

Judge Carlos A. Samour Jr. did not say when he would rule.

Before the hearing, Samour rejected a defense effort to gain unspecified University of Colorado records for a potential trial witness. The nature of the records and the identity of the witness haven’t been released.

Holmes was a student in a doctoral neuroscience program at the University of Colorado, Denver but dropped out before the shootings.

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