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Could Lafayette theater shooting derail James Holmes trial?

Lawyers for Colorado theater shooter James Holmes are concerned that some jurors may have been influenced by the fatal shooting at a Louisiana theater Thursday.

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    Aurora theater mass shooter James Holmes, who was convicted on July 16, appears in court, in Centennial, Colo., on June 4, 2013. Lawyers for Mr. Holmes have asked the judge in the trial to review whether the jurors have been influenced by a recent theater shooting in Louisiana.
    Andy Cross/The Denver Post/AP/File
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The judge in the trial of Colorado theater gunman James Holmes is questioning jurors about whether last week’s deadly shooting at a Louisiana theater might influence them.

Mr. Holmes’ attorneys, concerned that some jurors might want to punish their client for possibly inspiring a copycat shooting, asked Judge Carlos A. Samour Jr. on Monday to survey the jurors about whether they had seen or read anything about the shooting that killed two and wounded nine others in Lafayette, La., on Thursday.

Twelve jurors raised their hands, and Judge Samour proceeded to question them about how much they knew about the incident and whether they had discussed it with anyone.

A similar issue occurred during the trial of Boston Marathon bomber Dzhokhar Tsarnaev following the January attack on the offices of French satirical weekly Charlie Hebdo, The Christian Science Monitor’s Henry Gass reported.

Mr. Tsarnaev’s defense team had asked the court for a one-month suspension in jury selection to “allow some time for the extraordinary prejudice flowing from these events – and the comparison of those events to those at issue in this case – to diminish,” according to the motion, which cited a number of parallels between the two attacks that had been drawn by the press, politicians, and commentators, including the fact that the suspects in both attacks were brothers.

But US District Judge George O'Toole denied the motion, saying that the responses he had received from prospective jurors convinced him that it was possible to choose a fair and impartial jury to decide the case.

Tsarnaev has since been convicted on all 30 charges against him and sentenced to death.

The jurors in the Holmes trial, currently in its sentencing phase, have already seen more attention than is usual. On Monday, July 20, a judge banned Newsweek magazine from attending the remainder of the trial after the magazine identified one of the jurors on its Twitter account, the Monitor’s Cristina Maza reported.

In another incident, an alternate juror called attention to himself by sporting a Metallica T-shirt during Thursday’s hearing with an image of a man being electrocuted emblazoned across the front. And on Friday, the day’s hearing was cancelled because another juror fell ill.

The jurors have convicted Holmes of killing 12 people and injuring 70 in the July 2012 attack in Aurora, Colo., and have decided that his crimes merit a consideration of the death penalty.

Prosecutors and the defense will continue to make their case to the jury through the remainder of the trial’s sentencing portion, expected to last about a month.

This report contains material from the Associated Press.

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