An upcoming death penalty trial could have the largest pool of prospective jurors in El Paso County history.
Jury summonses were mailed out last week to 2,800 people for the double murder trial of former Fort Carson soldier Glen Galloway - larger than any local pool on record, court officials say, but less than a third of the 9,000 people who were called for Aurora theater shooter James Holmes.
The job of winnowing the group of nearly 3,000 to a panel of 12 jurors plus six alternates begins Jan. 2 and is expected to take up to three months.
"It is (El Paso County's) largest pool, I would say, ever," said 4th Judicial District Jury Commissioner Michelle Flesher. In researching the issue, Flesher consulted with a prior jury commissioner who served in the position for 20 years.
The jury selection process will begin with an 18-page questionnaire followed by rounds of questioning by both sides in the case - first focusing on large groups of people at a time, and proceeding to individual questioning. During the first week, roughly 300 people a day are expected to report to the downtown courthouse, Flesher said.
District Judge Gregory Werner, who is overseeing the Galloway case, previously planned on calling 600 prospective jurors but elected to more than quadruple that number to ensure a successful selection. Opening statements are expected in March.
The monthslong process that resulted in a panel for Holmes was slowed down in part because of strong feelings about the death penalty, with many jurors expressing opposition. Holmes was ultimately convicted in the July 2012 mass shooting that killed 12 and wounded 70, but the jury sentenced him to life in prison.
Galloway, 45, is accused in back-to-back killings in 2016 of a homeless man named Marcus Anderson and Galloway's ex-girlfriend, Janice Nam, whom he was forbidden to contact under a prior conviction for stalking. His upcoming trial marks the first death penalty case here since cop killer Marco Lee averted a death penalty by pleading guilty to murder charges in exchange for a life sentence without parole plus 167 years.
Court administrators also approved roughly $50,000 in courtroom audio-visual upgrades for Division 3, the courtroom that will host the trial. County workers also enlarged the jury box to accommodate the larger-than-usual jury panel. First-degree murder cases and other high-profile murder trials in El Paso County generally involve two to four alternates. Alternate jurors serve in case members of the 12-person panel cannot complete their service due to illness or other reasons.