A judge’s decision to dismiss three jurors in the Colorado theater shooting trial who had been exposed to news reports about the case shows how difficult it is to protect the jury for the vast media coverage surrounding the case.
The discovery that a juror had heard news accounts of the trial and shared details with two other jurors stalled Tuesday’s testimony but did not derail the case. Judge Carlos A. Samour Jr. had seated 12 alternate jurors, an unusually large figure, aware that exposure to media coverage was a possibility.
— CBC News (@CBCNews) June 10, 2015
“The judge knew that given the attention and the amount of information that’s out there, there’s a good chance that some jurors are going to disobey him and do what’s natural,” said Alan Tuerkheimer, principal of Trial Methods, a Chicago-based jury consulting firm.
The dismissals came in the seventh week of the trial. The first juror said her husband told her on speakerphone that the district attorney had sent a tweet during testimony, which had been in the news, Chron reported.
The other two jurors, who sometimes socialized with the first juror on breaks, were dismissed because they had likely heard her. The judge questioned the jurors individually about what they had heard and wasn’t convinced they were being forthcoming, dismissing them as well.
He decided against releasing a fourth juror who said she had heard the word “mistrial.”
Samour also refused a defense request to dismiss a fifth juror who had informed him about the situation, saying she had been honest and was not compromised by the information.
Samour instructs jurors daily not to contact outside sources, though this is difficult to ask. Jurors are allowed to go home every night, but they can’t discuss the case with anyone or see or read anything pertaining to it. They are, however, allowed to use their cell phones on breaks. While being questioned Tuesday, some admitted they see news headlines about the trial online sometimes.