Prosecutor’s social media gaffe annoys theater shooting trial judge
A prosecutor’s social media gaffe tossed the Aurora movie theater shooting trial into a minor uproar Friday, when a defense attorney accused the district attorney of not paying attention in court.
A day earlier, while the defense cross-examined a key mental health expert, a message went out from Arapahoe County District Attorney George Brauchler’s Twitter account referencing the 22 hours of video-recorded interviews that Dr. William Reid conducted with James Holmes and that jurors in the trial watched this week and last.
“I agree on the video,” the message read. “I hope the jury thinks so, too.”
At the start of court Friday, defense attorney Tamara Brady told Judge Carlos Samour Jr. about the tweet. In a judge’s instruction for the modern era, Samour earlier ordered attorneys on the case not to send out tweets during court.
“If the prosecution is seeking the execution of a man,” Bradyargued Friday, “perhaps the district attorney should pay attention to the cross examination of a mental health expert rather than chatting on social media.”
Brauchler said he sent the tweet by mistake when meaning to respond to a text message and quickly deleted it. He apologized to both Samour and to defense attorney Daniel King, who was questioning Reid at the time of the message.
“It’s an embarrassing mistake, but one I think I corrected quickly,” he said.
Brauchler has maintained a regular presence on Twitter during the trial, writing about news, politics and sports. All of his other tweets have come when court has not been in session, except for possibly one sent several weeks ago just after jurors were dismissed for the day.
Samour was less-than-pleased by Brauchler’s apology Friday, and he warned attorneys on both sides not to send social media or text messages during court again.
“If you’re bored and don’t want to pay attention to the proceedings, then you can leave,” he said.
Samour’s tone reflected the stress of a high-profile trial that concluded its sixth week on Friday. Later in the day, he scolded King for stepping out to take a phone call during arguments over evidence.
Friday was Reid’s last day on the witness stand, during which he reiterated his main findings: That Holmes was capable of knowing right from wrong on the night in 2012 when he killed 12 people and wounded 70 more inside an Aurora movie theater but that Holmes’ mental illness was so severe that the shootings would not have occurred if Holmes had been healthy.
Brauchler is seeking the death penalty against Holmes, who has pleaded not guilty by reason of insanity.
Prosecutors expect to call another mental health expert on Monday, and plan to finish their case by June 23. Defense attorneys expect it will take another two weeks to present their side.