Three jurors were released Tuesday from the trial of James Holmes after being involved in a conversation about the prosecutor's use of Twitter and potentially other news reports.
After an unprecedented search for candidates — 9,000 prospective jurors were called for the jury pool, reportedly the most in U.S. history — the court seated 24 people on the panel, including 12 who will deliberate on the case and 12 alternates. Only attorneys and the judge know who is an alternate and who is a juror.
Publicity surrounding the trial of Holmes, accused of killing 12 people and attempting to kill 70 others in a 2012 shooting massacre, has been a constant issue. Several rulings have limited media coverage: Cameras are not allowed, aside from a small video camera affixed to the ceiling, media may not bring their phones into the courtroom, and attorneys must abide by a gag order until the trial ends. Samour regularly reminds the jurors they may not discuss any aspect of the trial, and they must also avoid any coverage on TV, the Internet, newspapers, and social media.
The dismissals on Tuesday were prompted when one woman made comments to another woman, identified only as Juror 673, as well as two others as they were on a break Monday. Juror 673 wrote a note describing the comments to the judge on Tuesday; the others did not speak up.
"You did the right thing," Judge Carlos Samour told Juror 673.
According to Juror 673, the four women were outside Tuesday when one of them — Juror 872 — mentioned a news story that District Attorney George Brauchler accidentally sent a tweet during court proceedings. Brauchler told the court he on Thursday tweeted, "I agree on the video. I hope the jury thinks so too" during testimony by accident; he had meant to respond by text to a direct message.
Juror 872 last week also mentioned a motion for a mistrial, Juror 673 said, something that happened while the jury was not in the courtroom.
When questioned by the judge, Juror 872 said she was talking to her husband on speakerphone when he asked her if she knew who Brauchler was and told her about the courtroom tweet. He had seen a news story about the tweet on Facebook.
"I told him I didn't know anything about it," she said, adding she then forgot about it.
She said the three other women were nearby, but she didn't know if they had heard.
After questioning all the women, Samour described his concerns that 872 and 412 had been holding back. He added it was likely 495 had heard much of the conversation as well. Jurors 872, 495, and 412 were then dismissed.
Juror 673 appeared credible when she said she knew only vague facts, Samour said, and he believed her when she said she could continue to be fair and impartial.
After the three jurors were released, testimony continued on Tuesday. Nine alternates remain to fill the places of any other jurors who may be dismissed or become unavailable during the trial, which is expected to continue for months.
Samour also told the 10 attorneys to refrain from texting, emailing, or using other forms of electronic communication while court is in session.
"If you're bored and don't want to pay attention to the proceedings, then you are welcome to leave," Samour said.
Watch Tuesday's court proceedings here.
Claudia Koerner is a national reporter for BuzzFeed News and is based in Los Angeles.
Contact Claudia Koerner at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Got a confidential tip? Submit it here.