Skip to main content

Judge: Jury selection, trial of James Holmes could last 8 months

By Greg Botelho, CNN
updated 11:49 AM EDT, Thu October 10, 2013
  • Jury selection in James Holmes trial is set to start next February, court official says
  • That process could take 2-3 months; the trial may last 4-6 months, a judge says
  • Holmes faces 166 charges tied to a 2012 mass shooting at a Colorado movie theater

(CNN) -- Those deciding accused Colorado movie theater shooter James Holmes' fate should expect the whole process to take eight months, a judge ruled Wednesday, suggesting -- while few question who is behind the massacre -- that other factors might prolong the case.

District Court Judge Carlos Samour Jr. detailed his estimate in an order Wednesday pertaining to the questionnaire prospective jurors will have to fill out.

Agreeing with the prosecution that it's better to overestimate than underestimate how long everything will take, Samour said jurors will be told jury selection could go on for two to three months. The actual trial will last four to five months more, he said.

Defense team says Holmes committed Colorado theater shooting

Other parts of the judge's order allude to what may be the biggest complicating factor in the trial: mental health, including the prospect of a person pleading not guilty by reason of insanity, as Holmes has done.

Police officers walk on a rooftop at the Washington Navy Yard on Monday, September 16, after a shooting rampage in the nation's capital. At least 12 people and suspect Aaron Alexis were killed, according to authorities. Police officers walk on a rooftop at the Washington Navy Yard on Monday, September 16, after a shooting rampage in the nation's capital. At least 12 people and suspect Aaron Alexis were killed, according to authorities.
Worst mass shootings in U.S.
Photos: Worst mass shootings in U.S. Photos: Worst mass shootings in U.S.
Holmes offers guilty plea to avoid death
Victims remembered at 1 year of shooting

At the defense's request, for example, one grouping of questions will fall under a "mental health" or "mental illness" subheading, ruled Samour. One question jurors will be asked: "Do you have strong opinions -- good or bad -- about mental health providers?"

Victims in Colorado theater shootings allowed to watch trial

The burden is on the prosecution to prove that Holmes was sane at the time of the shootings.

Jury selection in the case is expected to begin February 3, 2014, according to Colorado state courts spokesman Rob McCallum.

About 400 moviegoers in Aurora, Colorado, were settling into a July 2012 midnight showing of the latest Batman installment, "The Dark Knight Rises," when a man dressed head-to-toe in protective gear enters.

Propping open the door, he exploded tear gas canisters in the theater, then began shooting, according to witnesses. Police say he used several weapons, including an AR-15 rifle, before fleeing the theater.

It's there where the shooter was apprehended, identifying himself to police as "The Joker," one of Batman's archenemies.

Holmes faces 166 charges in the rampage, which left 12 people died and another 70 wounded.

"He didn't care who he killed," prosecutor Karen Pearson said last January, saying Holmes chose his venue carefully to cage his victims. "He intended to kill them all."

Holmes was a neuroscience doctoral student at the University of Colorado's Anschutz Medical Campus until the month before the attack; prosecutors have argued that he began plotting his attack while still enrolled.

The defense, meanwhile, appears to be focused not so much on what Holmes allegedly did that night but his mental state then and earlier.

A psychiatrist who treated him had warned campus police at the University of Colorado how dangerous he was, prompting them to deactivate his college ID to prevent him passing through any locked doors, according to court documents.

Aurora marks anniversary of movie massacre amid gun debate

CNN's Karan Olson contributed to this report.

Part of complete coverage on
Meet the victims involved in the Colorado theater massacre through shared photos and read the memories kept alive by their loved ones.
updated 9:59 AM EDT, Thu March 28, 2013
Colorado shooting suspect has offered to plead guilty and spend the rest of his life behind bars in exchange for avoiding the death penalty.
updated 10:36 AM EDT, Fri March 22, 2013
Back in the 1950s, Hollywood fell in love with the idea of truth serum. But it doesn't work the way the movies have made it seem.
updated 9:59 PM EST, Fri March 1, 2013
Lawyers for James Holmes, the Aurora, Colorado, mass shooting suspect, took aim against the state's insanity defense laws in court documents made public Friday.
updated 7:18 AM EST, Tue January 8, 2013
So much blood the theater floor had become slippery. Bodies with horrific injuries. The eerie sound of cell phones ringing, over and over again.
updated 11:34 AM EST, Thu January 3, 2013
Relatives of nine people killed said an invitation to attend an event on the eve of the remodeled complex's reopening is "disgusting."
updated 11:30 AM EDT, Tue July 31, 2012
Colorado movie shooting suspect James Holmes was charged Monday with 24 counts of first-degree murder -- two counts for each of the 12 people killed in the shooting.
updated 6:06 PM EDT, Wed July 25, 2012
From the silver lining of welcoming a newborn into the world on Tuesday to promising to live life to the fullest, survivors are looking forward.
updated 10:46 AM EDT, Sun July 22, 2012
James E. Holmes is described by those who know him as a quiet, clean-cut doctoral student.
updated 10:35 AM EDT, Fri July 20, 2012
A heavily armed gunman opened fire at a movie theater on July 20, killing at least 12 and wounding 38. Here are some of the worst U.S. mass shootings since World War II.
updated 2:59 PM EDT, Wed July 25, 2012
Photos of the scene in Aurora after the shooting took place.
updated 9:59 PM EDT, Fri July 20, 2012
A heavily armed gunman sprayed the audience with gunfire during an early morning screening of the new Batman movie, killing 12 and wounding 38 others, authorities said.
Are you a friend or family member of one of the victims? Share your tributes here.