How accused mass murder James Holmes behaves during his trial - currently underway in Aurora, Colorado - may be as influential in the jury’s deliberations of his fate as what he says during the 22 hours worth of a videotaped psychiatric evaluation that jurors have been asked to watch.
Although legally the 24 jurors are not supposed to weigh the accused’s courtroom demeanor and body language, experts say jurors - like all humans - can’t help but draw subconscious inferences from his behavior.
The question facing the jurors is not whether Holmes killed 12 moviegoers and wounded 70 others when he attacked a theater on July 20, 2012. Rather, the jurors will be asked to decide whether the defendant - who has pled not guilty by reason of insanity - was indeed legally insane at the time.
“When James Holmes stares down at the table or across the courtroom, is he regretful or indifferent? Does he swivel in his chair because he feels remorse or pride for what he did,” asks reporter Jordan Steffen of The Denver Post.
Indeed, Steffen writes about one clear indication that the jurors are thinking about Holmes’ courtroom behavior - even though they aren’t supposed to consider it. On the fourth day of the ongoing trial, one of the jurors asked the judge to move the defendant’s seat so she could watch his “facial expressions and demeanor.” The judge denied the request.
Steffen quotes David Givens, Ph.D., who notes that people are pre-wired to pick up on and interpret nonverbal cues of those they encounter. “You can’t help it. They will watch his eyes, every little twitch, and everything will be factored into their decisions,” says Dr. Givens, who is director of the Center for Nonverbal Studies.
The irony, of course, is that many attorneys remain tone deaf to the nonverbal communications of prospective jurors exhibited during the voir dire selection process.
Carole Gold of The Jury Whisperer is a highly-developed intuitive who reads such nonverbal communications and draws on her special talents to quickly and accurately ascertain the unconscious and unexpressed thoughts and feelings of prospective jurors and witnesses.
Although Carole is not involved in the Aurora theatre trial, it is a clear example of the type of criminal case where her experience as a lawyer and her refined intuition skills could prove invaluable in forecasting how jurors will respond to a defendant during the accused’s courtroom appearances.