CENTENNIAL, Colo. (AP) – The jury in the Colorado theater shooting trial will be allowed to hear emotional details from a survivor who was paralyzed and suffered a miscarriage in the attack and whose 6-year-old daughter was killed.
In a ruling announced in court Thursday, Judge Carlos A. Samour Jr. also said prosecutors can show jurors a photo of the 6-year-old, Veronica Moser-Sullivan, but only for a few seconds.
Attorneys for gunman James Holmes had argued forcefully to severely limit the testimony of Veronica’s mother, Ashley Moser, saying it would unfairly bias the jury because the details are so heart-wrenching and emotional.
“The point of (showing Veronica’s photo) is so Ashley will start crying, as would any mother,” defense attorney Tamara Brady said. “Everyone in this courtroom will be heartbroken. … That’s the point of showing the picture.”
Samour said jurors already saw Veronica’s photo once.
“I’m going to allow the people to show it, but literally for 3 seconds,” Samour said, using the legal term “people” for prosecutors.
Jurors were not in the courtroom during the arguments over Moser’s testimony or when Samour announced his decision.
Samour agreed to bar some testimony, including Moser’s last words to her daughter. He also limited the details she could relate about her struggle to recover, including relearning how to use a spoon and go to the restroom.
Moser is expected to testify Friday as prosecutors wrap up their case. Her account is certain to be an emotional conclusion to eight weeks of often dramatic testimony woven in with crime-scene evidence and statements from psychiatrists about Holmes’ sanity.
Prosecutors are asking jurors to convict Holmes and sentence him to die.
Holmes has pleaded not guilty by reason of insanity to killing 12 people and injuring 70 during a midnight showing of a Batman movie on July 20, 2012. Of the injured, 58 were hit by gunfire and 12 were hurt in the scramble to escape.
Defense lawyers are scheduled to begin their case Wednesday. They told the judge they need two weeks. They want Holmes to be committed to the state mental hospital.
In his ruling Thursday, Samour said Moser could testify that she was excited to be pregnant, and that she left Veronica with a baby sitter earlier on the day of the shootings while she got an ultrasound scan.
She also can testify that when she took Veronica to the theater, she was under the mistaken impression the movie was a cartoon.
“I think Ms. Moser is entitled to explain why she brought a 6-year-old child to a midnight showing of a movie,” Samour said. He said that when Moser realized it wasn’t a cartoon, she thought, “Oh, my god. I hope Veronica won’t be scared.”
Moser also will be able to testify that when she was shot, she fell onto Veronica and couldn’t tell if her daughter was breathing.
Samour said Moser cannot tell jurors her last words to the girl. After explaining to Veronica that she couldn’t be on her lap because she was pregnant, the mother said: “You’re a big girl, and you can sit in your own seat.”
Samour said it’s normal for a pregnant woman not to want a child to sit on her lap, so the statement has no relevance to the trial.
Prosecutors can ask Moser whether she was told Veronica died and that her fetus didn’t survive, but the judge limited how much she could say about how she learned that.
– By Sadie Gurman, AP Writer
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