Judging how sick is too sick to serve on the Aurora theater shooting trial

CENTENNIAL | The judge in the Aurora theater shooting trial on Thursday set out limits for what constitutes a medical excuse from serving as a juror in the high-profile trial.
During the first eight days of jury selection, Judge Carlos Samour Jr. has released several jurors who brought notes from their doctors, but on Thursday he rejected a request from a juror who brought an excuse.
The prospective juror’s brief note didn’t mention any specific ailment. Instead, the doctor wrote having her serve on jury duty would “not be advisable,” Samour said.
Lawyers for accused shooter James Holmes and the prosecution agreed with the judge that the prospective juror should fill out the questionnaire and list more specific reasons as to why she shouldn’t serve.
FILE -- This Thursday, Jan. 15, 2015 file photo shows a view of the jury box, right, inside Courtroom 201, where jury selection in the trial of Aurora movie theater shootings defendant James Holmes is to begin on Jan. 20 at the Arapahoe County District Court in Centennial, Colo. The trial begins with 9,000 possible jurors and a rare opportunity to see a mass shooter stand trial. (AP Photo/Brennan Linsley, Pool, File)District Attorney George Brauchler said he didn’t want to pry into a person’s medical history, but he said it is important that there be a standard in place for people released for medical reasons.
“I don’t want to turn this into, ‘If I can get my doctor to scratch out a note, I can get out of jury duty,’” he said.
Holmes is charged with killing 12 and wounding dozens more during a July 2012 shooting rampage at an Aurora movie theater. He has pleaded not guilty by reason of insanity and prosecutors are seeking the death penalty.
Jury selection started last week and is expected to continue through May or June.
Samour released 126 jurors Thursday, bringing the total let go so far to 724. Almost 2,000 prospective jurors have reported to court over the first eight days.
Samour on Thursday amended his order barring prospective jurors from talking to the media about anything for two jurors. One juror’s husband works in the media and Samour said she can talk to her husband, just not about the theater shooting case.
“Obviously I can’t prevent her from talking to her husband for eight months,” he said.
The other juror said they were close friends with several people who work in media.
Samour said the point of his order is to stop people who don’t normally speak to the media from doing so, not to bar people who regularly speak to the media from discussing subjects other than the theater shooting. He has issued a similar amended order for a woman who worked for the Denver Post and a man who works for Denver radio station KBPI.
The jurors released Thursday include two mothers who told the court earlier one of their children was in an adjacent theater the night of the shootings. “I wouldn’t want to be on this case,” one of the women wrote in a note to Samour.
A pregnant woman due soon who asked to be released Jan. 27, but who the defense said should stay to at least fill out the questionnaire, was also released.
Another released juror told the court they had medical issues and their right side was paralyzed and another said they were the sole care provider for a disabled relative.
The two sides have not said in court why some jurors are being released. Some who said they have connections to the case or to the lawyers involved have not been released, while others have.
Samour said a juror from Wednesday’s session spent close to four hours filling out the 18-page, 75-question juror questionnaire but did not complete it. The judge said there isn’t a time limit on the form, but the prospective juror was taking so long it wasn’t fair for him to keep his staff on duty. The juror will be called back to complete the form, Samour said, but likely be called in the morning so they have a full day to finish.
Holmes sat quietly wearing a white button-up shirt throughout today’s hearing.