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Judge bars some images from theater shooting trial

December 24, 2014

DENVER (AP) — The judge overseeing the Colorado theater shooting case said Tuesday he will let prosecutors show some photos of the bloody crime scene and the shooter’s apartment but not others such as tattoos of a slain victim that name his children and could bias jurors.

Defendant James Holmes has pleaded not guilty by reason of insanity to charges of killing 12 people and injuring 70 in the attack at the Denver-area movie theater on July 20, 2012. Prosecutors are seeking the death penalty.

Judge Carlos A. Samour Jr. wrote in an order that he will allow many of the 215 photos for which prosecutors sought approval, despite defense lawyers’ objections that they are too gruesome or offensive.

Many depict dead or wounded victims — images the attorneys argued would traumatize jurors.

Samour said a number of photos were not unnecessarily gruesome or inflammatory given the nature of the mass shooting.

“They are not rendered inadmissible simply because they present vividly to the jurors the details of the shocking crimes charged,” Samour wrote.

Still, the judge isn’t allowing a handful of images, including a bloody emergency room and a survivor’s massive abdominal injuries. He also said prosecutors will have to prove the necessity of the disputed photos and video they want to use at trial.

Prosecutors can show footage of a gear shift in the shape of a skull found in Holmes’ car but can’t claim it as a sign of his mental state the night of the shooting, the ruling states.

The photos are among piles of evidence that prosecutors said could occupy 400 square feet (37 square meters) of courthouse space.

Defense attorneys don’t dispute that Holmes was the shooter but argue he was in the grips of a psychotic episode.

His parents, Robert and Arlene, said in a statement last week that their son is mentally ill and should not be executed. They begged for a plea deal that would send Holmes to an institution for the mentally ill, which would happen if a jury finds him not guilty by reason of insanity.

Jury selection is scheduled to start Jan. 20.

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