Aurora Theater Shooting Judge Dismisses Three Jurors

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<p>(Bill Robles/For CPR News)</p>
<p>A courtroom artist&#039;s sketch of James Holmes.</p>
Photo: James Holmes sketch, profile, Aurora theater shooting trial
A courtroom artist's sketch of James Holmes.

Posted: 12:16 p.m. | Updated: 3:25 p.m.

The judge in the Aurora theater shooting trial dismissed three jurors Tuesday afternoon after learning they overheard someone talking about a news report concerning the trial.

James Holmes, the man on trial, could get the death penalty for killing 12 people at the theater three years ago.

The dismissals stemmed from a note sent to Judge Carlos Samour from one juror that said some others on the panel were discussing a news report about a request for a mistrial last week. A juror, only known as juror No. 872, was brought in to be questioned in front of the court.

She told the judge she had received a call last week during a lunch break from her husband, who mentioned that District Attorney George Brauchler had inadvertently posted a message on Twitter about testimony in court.

"He said, ‘Well, that idiot tweeted during the testimony,' and that was it. I didn’t ask what he tweeted, or anything like that," the juror said Tuesday.

The tweet led to a failed request by the defense for a mistrial.

The judge asked the juror Tuesday why she didn’t hadn't come forward to say anything about the call.

"I really just don’t pay attention to my husband most of the time," she said. "So it wasn’t really that important at that time. I didn’t expect, you know, anything out of it, so it was just kind of pushed under the rug and forgotten about."

She left the courtroom for a moment, and Samour told the attorneys he didn’t trust her. And he said she broke his rules about consuming media about the trial. Then he brought her back into the courtroom.

"Ma’am, I’m going to go ahead and excuse you at this time, so you are discharged from jury service in this case," he told her, as she sobbed quietly.

There was another problem, however: The call from her husband about the mistrial was on speakerphone, so several other jurors heard it, including juror No. 412.

Samour called her into the courtroom.

"Ma’am, I’m going to go ahead and excuse you at this time," he said.

And then he called in juror No. 495.

"Ma’am, I’m going to go ahead and excuse you at this time."

James Holmes’ attorney, Daniel King, also wanted the juror who alerted the judge to the problem in the first place to be kicked off since she also knew about the request for a mistrial.

"We have 12 alternate jurors in this case. And that’s why we have 12 alternate jurors. And we’re well into the case, we’re more than half way through the case, and any kind of discrepancy should be resolved in favor in making sure this is an impartial juror," King said.

The judge disagreed. That juror said she would not be biased about what she overheard, he said. And he added that he thought the juror was the most trustworthy of them all.

"I think this was a hard thing for her. She’s not looking like she’s getting any pleasure out of this at all. This is, actually, seemingly painful for her.

Now there are 21 jurors left. None of them will know if they'll be among the 12 to decide the case until deliberations are about to begin.