Defense faces challenges in theater shooting.

Author:Gurman, Sadie

Byline: Sadie Gurman

CENTENNIAL, Colo. -- Half-empty tissue boxes littered the floor of Courtroom 201 after a day in which survivors told stories of heartbreak, revulsion and horror about the night James Holmes shot scores of people inside a packed a suburban Denver movie theater.

Some in the courtroom reached for the colorful boxes to wipe their eyes as more than two dozen victims and first responders -- each with their own tragic stories -- testified during the first week of Holmes' trial, describing how a theater full of moviegoers excited to see a new Batman film became a scene of life-altering carnage and terror.

Defense attorneys have urged jurors not to let emotions sway them, but with weeks of harrowing testimony still to come, experts say Holmes' lawyers will have a difficult time convincing jurors to put sympathy behind them as they decide whether he was legally insane when he killed 12 people and injured 70 others in July 2012.

Judge Carlos A. Samour Jr. has reminded jurors to keep an open mind. But the average person isn't trained to do that, said Joseph Rice, managing partner of the Jury Research Institute, a California-based trial consulting firm.

''Once you have that visceral gut reaction to a scene or a sympathetic connection with a party, it's virtually impossible to treat this in an academic way,'' he said.

Each witness has offered their own painful vantage point on the attack. Among those jurors heard from last week:

Caleb Medley, who suffered brain damage and paralysis from a shotgun blast to the face, could only speak in grunts from the witness stand or by pointing to letters...

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