Trial for Aurora Shooter James Holmes Could Last Eight Months, Judge Says

PHOTO: Aurora theater shooting suspect James Holmes in court in Centennial, Colo., June 4, 2013.PlayAndy Cross/The Denver Post/AP Photo
WATCH James Holmes Trial Could Last Months

A Colorado court will tell potential jurors in the trial of accused theater shooter James Holmes that their service could last up to eight months. Legal experts say the trial will be "unprecedented" for the state in expense, size and pain.

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"The Court will instruct prospective Jurors that individual voir dire will last approximately two to three months and that the trial itself may last four to five months," Arapahoe County District Court Judge Carlos Samour wrote in a Wednesday court order. "As such, they should plan to be available to serve on this case for six to eight months."

The judge noted that the time is an estimate that it is "better to err on the side of overestimating the duration of the trial."

Experts are calling the upcoming trial "unprecedented."

"Six to eight months is an extremely long time, especially in Colorado," attorney David Beller told "It's very, very rare for there to be a lengthy trial like that. Colorado does not bring death penalty cases very often and even less often actually imposes it. However, this crime is obviously particularly horrific."

Beller is a Denver criminal defense attorney who is not involved in the Holmes case, but has been following it closely.

Holmes is accused of a mass shooting in an Aurora, Colo., movie theater on July 20, 2012, that left 12 people dead and another 70 shot or injured.

"There's really no mystery as to who did all the shooting, but in a normal case of felony assault, murder or attempted murder, you put on detailed evidence about the injuries suffered," attorney Craig Silverman told "That will take a huge amount of time in this case. There's so many. There's never been a crime scene quite like this."

Silverman is a Denver attorney who spent 16 years at the Denver District Attorney's Office where he was a chief deputy district attorney. He is now in private practice and not involved in the Holmes case.

"This case has always boiled down to two things: whether Holmes is legally insane and whether the prosecution will seek capital punishment," Silverman said. "The defense will fight on any and every issue they can until and unless the DA relents in his pursuit of capital punishment."

Silverman doesn't anticipate the DA relenting on a death sentence.

"If you don't seek capital punishment [in this case], then you may as well not have capital punishment in Colorado," he said.

It is expected that 6,000 people will be tapped as potential jurors in the case, which is about one percent of the population of Arapahoe County. The chosen jurors will be paid a $50 daily stipend for the time they serve.

"This particular trial will be unprecedented in terms of expense for the taxpayer and the state of Colorado, especially the residents of Arapahoe County," Beller said. "Easily, you're talking about $5 million and it very well could be much higher than that."

Silverman said he has never seen security as high in any case and so many people involved.

"This whole process is extraordinarily expensive, especially if it plays out for the next 20 years. That's the average life expectancy of a Colorado death penalty case."

Both attorneys referenced the case of Chuckie Cheese's killer and death row inmate Nathan Dunlap, whose case is still going through the legal system more than 20 years after the shooting that scarred the people or Aurora long before the movie theater shooting.

In July of this year, attorneys for James Holmes admitted their client committed the mass shooting, claiming he was "in the throes of a psychotic episode."

Holmes has pleaded not guilty by reason of insanity, months after prosecutors rejected his offer of a guilty plea in exchange for life in prison instead of the death penalty.

"It's a shame that this trial will have to last so long," Silverman said. "This will be just one more terrible thing that the victims and the families will have to endure."

Holmes' trial is scheduled to begin in February.