King Soopers shooting trial: Judge defers on moving the venue outside Boulder County, denies request to sequester jury

Hart Van Denburg/CPR News
Flowers and messages, some spiritual and some political, at the makeshift memorial outside King Soopers on Boulder’s Table Mesa Drive, a week after a gunman opened fire in the store March 22, 2021, killing 10 people.

Updated June 5, 2024 at 9:49 a.m.

In a preliminary court hearing for the accused Boulder King Soopers shooter on Tuesday morning, the judge decided on several procedural matters but has not yet ruled on whether to move the venue of the trial outside Boulder County.

Judge Ingrid Bakke also denied the defense attorney’s request to sequester the jury for the trial, which is set to begin Sept. 3.

Ahmad Al Aliwi Alissa's attorneys argued that media coverage was a compelling reason to move the location due to concerns over whether it would affect him getting a fair and impartial trial.

“We're not saying that coverage by the New York Times or CNN or the fact that there's been global media outlets that picked up this story, that's the reason that the court should grant our motion,” said Samuel Dunn, attorney for Alissa. “We're saying that particularly here in Boulder County, the coverage that you receive makes it so that this is massive coverage that that factor has been made.”

Defense attorney Kathryn Herold also argued concerns over whether jurors selected the case would remain “honest and comfortable” for such a high-profile case due to the press.

“I've heard horror stories in following jurors trying to talk with jurors during jury selection,” Herold said. “I've heard horror stories of putting their phone on record and following around jurors and trying to get anything. The court can put in orders. But, the court can't ensure everybody follows them.”

Prosecutors argue it'd set an unwelcome new standard

Prosecutors argued that, if granted, the request would set a new standard for all high-profile cases.

“Many of the members of this community in Boulder County have read and heard about this case, but that is not standard for dismissing a juror from service. It is certainly not the standard for granting a change of venue request by the defense,” said Ken Kupfer, Boulder County Assistant District Attorney.

Judge Ingrid Bakke agreed with points on both sides but has deferred the decision on a venue change.

“I've been clear since the beginning of this case, my number one goal is get it to trial and get it tried but get it tried in a way that it won't come back,” Bakke said Tuesday.

The attorney and Bakke did set deadlines for jury questionnaires and decided that potential jurors will fill them out in the courtroom. 

The case so far, and what's next

The then-21-year-old Alissa is accused of shooting and killing ten people at the Table Mesa Kings Soopers in March 2021. Nine civilians and a police officer were among the victims.

The trial has been long delayed due to Alissa’s mental competency

Alissa spent 20 months at the Colorado Mental Health Institute in Pueblo before he was declared mentally competent to stand trial in August 2023. In court documents, his attorneys said Alissa showed signs of schizophrenia. During his hospitalization, he was forcibly medicated and underwent multiple evaluations.

Alissa is scheduled to appear in court Aug. 6 for another motion hearing.

His trial date is set for Sept. 3.

Editor's note: This story has been updated to correct the date of the motions hearing for the man accused in the Boulder grocery store shooting.