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Colorado judge begins process of sorting evidence in theater shooting case

By Keith Coffman

CENTENNIAL, Colo. (Reuters) - The judge presiding over the case of accused Colorado movie theater gunman James Holmes began sorting out on Monday which evidence might be excluded from the upcoming trial, including information from online dating sites Holmes used.

In the first of a series of evidentiary hearings scheduled for the next few weeks, Arapahoe County District Judge Carlos Samour said he would take under consideration a motion by lawyers for Holmes to bar evidence seized from profiles Holmes created on the dating websites Match.com and AdultFriendFinder.com.

Defense attorneys have argued that the websites released information to authorities that went beyond what was sought in search warrants, while prosecutors countered that Holmes could have no expectation of privacy regarding any information posted on social media.

Holmes, a former neuroscience graduate student at the University of Colorado, is charged with multiple counts of first-degree murder and attempted murder related to a shooting rampage in a suburban Denver cinema in July 2012 in which 12 moviegoers were killed and 70 injured.

Holmes, 25, has pleaded not guilty by reason of insanity.

Prosecutors are seeking the death penalty for the California native, whose trial is scheduled to begin in February.

Samour said he expected court officials to send out 6,000 jury summonses in the case. He said he would review suggested questionnaires submitted by prosecutors and defense lawyers and rule on which questions should be put to prospective jurors when they report before the trial.

Holmes, who was shackled and dressed in red jail garb, sat impassively during Monday's proceedings and did not acknowledge his parents and sister sitting in the courtroom gallery.

Samour told Arapahoe County prosecutors and defense lawyers for Holmes that if they were to seek a continuance of the trial they needed to make a motion by early January.

Arapahoe County public defender Daniel King, Holmes' lead attorney, did not indicate if he would be seeking a postponement but told the judge that estimates of a three-month trial were unrealistic.

Arapahoe County prosecutor Karen Pearson said she expected the penalty phase alone to last up to a month if Holmes were to be convicted.

(Reporting by Keith Coffman; Writing by Dan Whitcomb; Editing by Cynthia Johnston and Richard Chang)

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