DENVER (Reuters) - Lawyers for the man charged with mass murder in a 2012 shooting frenzy that left 12 people dead at a Colorado movie theater have asked that his upcoming trial be moved out of the suburban Denver county where the case has been prosecuted.
Defense attorneys argued in their motion for a change of venue that James Holmes’ right to a fair trial in Arapahoe County has been compromised by “pervasive media coverage” of the case locally and “the undeniable impact of the tragedy on the community itself.”
Holmes, 26, has pleaded not guilty by reason of insanity to murder and attempted murder charges stemming from the July 2012 massacre at an Aurora, Colorado, cinema during a midnight screening of the Batman film “The Dark Knight Rises.”
Twelve moviegoers were killed and 70 others were injured in the shooting rampage, one of the deadliest outbursts of U.S. gun violence in decades.
The case made international headlines, but has drawn especially intense news coverage in the Denver area.
In their 37-page motion, Holmes’ public defenders cited a survey of news reports conducted by social psychologist Bryan Edelman in arguing that the extreme glare of publicity makes it virtually impossible to avoid prejudicing the pool of potential jurors in Arapahoe County.
“The pretrial news coverage has been at best consistent and comprehensive,” the motion said. “At worst, the media has been incessant and unrelenting.”
Jury selection in trial is scheduled to begin October 14.
Prosecutors have said they intend to seek the death penalty for Holmes if he is convicted.
There was no immediate response by prosecutors to the change of venue motion, which was filed in court on Holmes’ behalf on Friday and made public on Monday. But the defense said in its filing that prosecutors object to moving the trial.
Holmes’ lawyers have acknowledged that the one-time neuroscience doctoral candidate was the lone gunman who committed the shooting, but they say he suffers from a chronic mental illness and was experiencing a psychotic episode when he opened fire in the crowded theater.
Arapahoe County District Judge Carlos Samour has ordered Holmes to undergo a second sanity evaluation after finding that the first examination was “incomplete and inadequate.” However, the new battery of tests have been put on hold to allow defense lawyers time to appeal that ruling.
Reporting Keith Coffman; Writing by Steve Gorman; Editing by Cynthia Johnston and David Gregorio