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2nd Phase Of Jury Selection In Aurora Theater Shooting Trial Focuses On Insanity, Death Penalty

CENTENNIAL, Colo. (CBS4) - Jury selection in the Aurora Theater Shooting trial has entered its second phase as attorneys began questioning potential jurors individually.

Six prospective jurors were brought into the courtroom Wednesday morning where they were questioned one at a time.

Attorneys are questioning the potential jurors in four areas: publicity, the hardship they may face, the insanity defense and the death penalty.

James Holmes
James Holmes in court on Feb. 11, 2015 (Sketch by Bill Robles)

The suspect, James Holmes, sat quietly in court and at times took notes.

The first prospective juror was asked by the prosecution, "Can you look across the room and vote to impose the death penalty on someone?" The answer was, "Yes."

The defense then asked, "Do you feel the death penalty is the only appropriate penalty in this case?" The answer was, "No."

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CBS4 Legal Analyst Karen Steinhauser said this line of questioning will give attorneys a clear picture of where the jurors stand on important elements in the trial.

"They want everyone to understand there are varying degrees of mental illness, that not everyone who is mentally ill is insane. The defense wants to ensure that there are not people who believe that the insanity defense is just a fiction, that really isn't a legitimate defense. Both sides wants to see what peoples' own experiences with mental illness are and make sure they are not going to take those experiences and make judgments without listening to the experts, without listening to all the evidence," said Steinhauser.

I think that people who talk about the concept of the death penalty, it's easy for people to say in this setting one way or the other, I believe in it, I don't believe in it. Now they're in a situation where they may have to determine if somebody lives or dies and for people to know that's the decision they may have to make -- that's much more sobering experience. I think it makes people really have to question their own principals, their own values to decide if they can, in fact, make that decision.

"The defense, of course, is going to be looking for those people who say they can do it but are very hesitant, who don't want to have to do it, but understand if it's the law, they will," she said.

"The prosecutors are looking for those people who feel, without hesitation, that they could impose the death penalty."

Holmes has pleaded not guilty by reason of insanity. Attorneys hope to have 12 jurors and 12 alternates selected before the opening arguments can begin.

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