Citing "unrelenting" news coverage, attorneys ask a judge to move the trial out of town

By Steve Helling
Updated April 08, 2014 02:35 PM
RJ Sangosti/The Denver Post/Getty

Lawyers for the man accused of murdering 12 people in a Colorado movie theater in 2012 have requested that his trial, scheduled for October in Arapahoe County, be moved to a more neutral location.

When James Holmes was arrested for a shooting rampage during a screening of The Dark Knight Rises, the story drew hundreds of media outlets to Aurora, Colo. Holmes has pleaded not guilty by reason of insanity to the massacre that left 12 people dead and injured 58 more.

In a motion for venue change filed on Monday, his lawyers argue that media coverage has tainted the potential jury pool against their client. In the motion, attorneys called pretrial news coverage “at best consistent and comprehensive, but at worst, incessant and unrelenting.”

At issue is whether a jury will believe Holmes’s assertion that he is mentally ill.

“As a result, the public is aware of far more than just the charges and the general nature of the allegations,” the motion reads. “The pretrial coverage has included a mostly one-sided history of Mr. Holmes’s life that undermines the burden of proof related to sanity.”

To bolster their case, Holmes’s lawyers had experts analyze both print and broadcast news coverage. They also included graphic comments posted by users on local news websites.

“Unfortunately, the effects of this case have festered within a community surrounded by unremitting prejudicial news coverage,” Holmes’s attorneys wrote. “As a result, prejudgement abounds, including the vilification of James Holmes as evil rather than a severely mentally ill young man.”

The judge is expected to rule on the motion within the next two months. If convicted, Holmes, 26, faces the death penalty.