In a surprise move, the judge in the Aurora, Colorado, shooting rampage case involving James Holmes dismissed three jurors, citing misconduct in all three situations.
"Any decision that the jurors make has to come from evidence that they received in the courtroom," Denver attorney David Beller.
James Holmes is accused of having gunned down 12 individuals during a screening of The Dark Knight Rises in 2012. Seventy people were also injured in the tragedy, and Holmes' lawyers are arguing that the young man was dealing with schizophrenia at the time. Holmes has pleaded not guilty by reason of insanity in the case.
Arapahoe County District Judge Carlos Samour Jr. suspected that the three dismissed jurors had been tainted by media exposure related to the case, which therefore made them ineligible to carry on with the trial. The dismissal, however, will have minimal effect on the trial itself -- neither side moved for a mistrial, and there are a panel of nine alternate jurors to go along with the 12 sitting jurors. The judge may determine that alternates should be employed at some point, but that decision was not discussed in court.
The three women involved with the dismissal are accused of having ignored Judge Samour's orders to avoid outside information about the case. A juror reported to the judge that another juror had heard from her husband about a tweet that the district attorney in the case sent (and later deleted) from her husband, who was on speakerphone at the time. The other two jurors who were dismissed associated frequently with the juror in the case and were dismissed because they likely overheard the conversation.
The juror who reported the offense to the judge was kept because, in the judge's view, she had been honest with the court about what had happened, and a fifth juror could have been dismissed but was not because she had heard the word "mistrial" but had no clue what was being discussed. The district attorney, George Brauchler, was very apologetic about the tweet when the judge discussed the matter of the released tweet with him.
In total, there are 21 jurors and alternates that remain. The case is over halfway done, and the judge continues to remind the jury of their need to avoid any media influence, as he would like to minimize the bias they might be exposed to. None of the jurors in the case have been identified since they were selected in April, when the trial began.
[Photo by Doug Pensinger / Getty Images]