AURORA | The sentencing phase of the Aurora theater shooting trial got off to a slow but contentious start Wednesday as the 12 jurors who last week convicted James Holmes of murder now decide whether he should get the death penalty.
Jurors reported to court around 8:30 a.m. for the first time since they convicted Holmes last week but didn’t take their seats in the courtroom until after 11 a.m. The delay came as prosecutors and defense lawyers spent the morning arguing over a PowerPoint presentation prosecutors showed the jury when they asked them to find that Holmes’ crimes included enough aggravating factors.
The jury deliberated started deliberating that question around 1:30 p.m. but hadn’t reached a verdict when they went home for the day at 4:30 p.m.
The verdict on whether there were enough aggravating factors for the case to qualify for the death penalty was expected relatively quickly. Prosecutors had already laid out so much evidence of aggravation — particularly that there were multiple victims, including a 6-year-old girl — during the trial that they opted not to present any during this phase of sentencing and gave just a 30-minute argument about the five aggravating factors they submitted. The defense opted not to make any argument in front of the jury.
But the jury seemed hung up on the question of whether Holmes knowingly and deliberately killed 6-year-old Veronica Moser-Sullivan. Before they left for the day, they asked for a DVD player, television and several videos put into evidence, including an interview with police where Holmes asked if any children were hurt and surveillance videos from the theater that showed several children in attendance that night.
Jurors are expected to watch those videos for about an hour Thursday morning.
Also Wednesday, Judge Carlos Samour Jr. barred Newsweek from having a reporter in the courtroom after the magazine last week reported the name of the jury foreman.
The flap started last week when the magazine’s story about jurors convicting James Holmes on all 165 counts included the name of the foreman, a survivor of the Columbine High School shootings.
Samour had said in April that any media outlet who reported the name of a juror, or any details about them not released in open court, would face sanctions and likely be banned from the courtroom.
In Newsweek’s case, Samour said he was disappointed and would not only bar them from having a reporter in the courtroom, but from having staff outside the Arapahoe County Justice Center as well.
“Frankly, Newsweek should know better, and it is really disappointing that something like this happened,” he said.
The magazine, which hasn’t been one of the credentialed media outlets covering the case in person in recent months, told the court they did not plan on having a reporter in the courtroom going forward anyway, Samour said.
The foreman, a white man in his 30s, brought the issue to the judge’s attention after he said someone sent him a tweet from the magazine that included his name.
The defense asked Samour to launch an investigation into how the magazine got the foreman’s name and to consider contempt charges, but Samour declined.
After an almost three-month trial, the jury convicted Holmes last week of killing 12 and wounding 70 others during the July 2012 attack at an Aurora movie theater. Holmes had pleaded not guilty by reason of insanity but jurors rejected that defense after just more than a day of deliberations.
The sentencing phase, which will include testimony from families of the 12 killed as well as Holmes’ family, is expected to continue through August.