A judge on Thursday scheduled the start of the Aurora movie theater murder trial for October, but defense attorneys said during a hearing they plan an appeal that could delay the long-postponed trial even further.
At Thursday's hearing, Arapahoe County District Court Judge Carlos Samour set the start of the trial for Oct. 14. That is when the first batch of the 6,000 prospective jurors set to be summoned for the case — one of the largest jury calls in U.S. history — will arrive for the first phase of jury selection. Picking a jury could take three months, meaning opening statements in the trial may not actually begin until 2015. A verdict and possible sentence for James Holmes are likely still more than a year away.
But defense attorneys said a trial already nearly two years in the making could have to be delayed further. Attorney Tamara Brady said the defense plans to ask Samour to reconsider his recent order that Holmes undergo a second psychiatric exam. If Samour upholds his decision, Brady said the defense would likely appeal to the state Supreme Court.
"That would certainly delay things," she said.
Later Thursday, Samour placed the second evaluation, which he has ordered completed by July 11, on hold for a few weeks while the issue is resolved. But he remained resolute on the new trial date.
"I am comfortable with the decision I made," he said during the hearing.
Holmes is charged with dozens of counts of murder and attempted murder in connection with the July 20, 2012, attack on the Century Aurora 16 movie theater in Aurora. He has pleaded not guilty by reason of insanity — a plea that prompted the court-ordered psychiatric exams. Prosecutors are seeking the death penalty.
After months of delay brought on by a prosecution request for the second psychiatric exam, Samour was eager Thursday to put the case's schedule back in order. In addition to the trial date, he set two weeks of hearings on death-penalty-related arguments for the end of April and the start of May. And he set a Sept. 5 hearing date that he said would be the "drop-dead deadline" for any effort to postpone the trial again.
Prosecutor Rich Orman said victims of the shooting are frustrated with the slow pace of the case.
"I think, to a person, they would have preferred the trial to start a long time ago," Orman said.
Samour said he, too, wants to move the case along. But, he said, he must make sure the process is above question.
"I have to make sure things are done right," he said. "I'm not going to allow things to be rushed."
John Ingold: 303-954-1068, email@example.com or twitter.com/john_ingold