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Whittling 7,000 potential jurors down to 24 for Aurora mass shooting trial

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  • GWEN IFILL:

    Mary MacCarthy, how are they going about narrowing down or even finding an impartial jury in such a notorious case?

  • MARY MACCARTHY, Feature Story News:

    Well, they're doing it by actually making history here.

    In fact, they sent out a total of 9,000 jury summonses. We found out today that that initial group of 9,000 was whittled down already to 7,000, because 2,000 of the people who received summonses were — either had a connection to the case or the summons was in fact undeliverable.

    Now, the judge said today that he hopes that, of those 7,000, they will actually have to call in or see in the courtroom somewhere between 3,000 and 3,800, and, from that, whittle the group down once again to between 100 and 120. From that, they will find 24 jurors who they hope can serve on this, 12 actual jurors, 12 alternates, so, again, people who can give up many months of their life.

    They're saying that the actual trial proper will likely start in May or June and easily go until October. A prosecution lawyer talking about scheduling issues in the courtroom today raised the issue of some dates in October, and nobody batted an eyelid. So we're looking at a trial that could easily take up much of 2015.

  • GWEN IFILL:

    Well, just picking the jury alone seems like a Herculean task.

    James Holmes was in the courtroom today. You have seen him before in this setting. We have just seen pictures of him with the orange hair and kind of the wild eyes. What was he like today?

  • MARY MACCARTHY:

    Dramatically different today.

    Now, we don't have video coming out of the courtroom, because the televised hearings will again begin with the hearings proper, not the jury selection. So coming out of the courtroom today, we only have sketches. But when I walked into the courtroom, like many of the media who were there, at first, we didn't actually realize that one of the people sitting up front with the defense team was the suspect himself because he looked so different.

    In the past, he's always been wearing the prison garb, the prison jumpsuit, the bright orange, very definitively points him out as a suspect, whereas today he was in street clothes, civilian clothes, a nice sports jacket, a dress shirt, khakis. He had some very nice sort of burgundy-colored dark glasses. And he looked very spruced up.

    And there was also a dramatic difference in his demeanor. For the first time that I have seen him, he didn't look dazed, he didn't look sort of out of it. He looked attentive, engaged. In fact, he was chatting with one of the lead defense lawyers, Tamara Brady, sitting right next to him, and even sort of laughing and lighthearted, not in a distasteful way, but simply looking relaxed for the first time ever in the courtroom.

  • GWEN IFILL:

    Well, now, he has admitted to the shooting itself, but is claiming insanity. How does this then compare, this case, so far to other big mass shooting trials that we have seen?

  • MARY MACCARTHY:

    Well, this is very rare.

    As we know, mass shootings are quite common, according to the FBI, about 16 per year. This one is rare, both in the magnitude of the victims, that it was 12 people killed and another 58 seriously injured, even more injured beyond that, but 58 people suffering from serious injuries, and it's simply rare that the shooter survives.

    Many people are comparing this case to the Boston Marathon bombing case, because, again, crimes that affected a huge community and in which the perpetrator survived, because, as we know, in most shootings, the assailant is either shot by police or turns the gun on himself.

  • GWEN IFILL:

    And, certainly, that was the case in Columbine case, which casts a shadow over this case.

  • MARY MACCARTHY:

    That's right.

    It's important to note that, here in Colorado, that, even if the shootings, these mass shootings are happening everywhere, that these — both the Columbine High School shooting in 1999 and the Aurora theater shooting in 2012 are things that stand out for the community here.

    There has been some solidarity among the victims, helping them out, helping each other out, the families even joining causes, with many of them working towards things like gun control, working for better treatment for mental illness. But I can say, as a longtime resident of Colorado, that both of these shootings have really cast a pallor over our state and it's something that's really coming to mind for the victims as they have to deal with this process.

    Now perhaps another eight months or longer of the trial being in the headlines every day is going to raise a lot of painful memories for them.

  • GWEN IFILL:

    Mary MacCarthy of Feature Story News in Centennial, Colorado, for us tonight, thank you.

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