Jurors consider theater's liability in shooting

Posted at 6:47 AM, May 18, 2016
and last updated 2016-05-19 00:14:44-04

Jurors have begun deliberating in the civil lawsuit against the Cinemark Theater chain.

They’ll decide, as a group, whether Cinemark is liable for the carnage wrought by James Holmes.

Holmes was sentenced to spend the rest of his life in prison for killing 12 people and wounding 70 others in the movie theater in Aurora on July 20, 2012.

In closing arguments today, the plaintiff’s attorney, Marc Bern said the theater chain was not prepared for what happened.  He said they failed to install closed circuit TV, didn’t have armed security that night nor did they have perimeter patrols.

“If the theater hadn’t failed,” Bern said, “none of us would be here.  This tragedy would have been prevented.”

Bern told jurors that Cinemark’s attorneys spent more than $600,000 for expert witnesses.

He noted that for $800 a silent alarm could have been installed on the back door of the theater.

“Cinemark’s mission was never to admit fault,” he said. “The shooter was prepared. Sadly, Cinemark was not.

The theater’s attorney, Kevin Taylor, told jurors “This case is about what James Holmes did.”

Taylor said he understands why the plaintiffs are going after Cinemark.

“They want money,” he said, adding, that the theater’s record was virtually spotless.

Taylor pointed to some pictures on the screen. Pictures of bombs and damage.

“How could the theater have foreseen this?” he asked. “Never in the history of this media, had anyone committed mass murder.”

He said people have propped open doors before, but there was not one incident.

“Holmes was fully committed.  There was no stopping him,” Tayor said.

The defense attorney called the theater shooting a horrible tragedy, “but let’s not compound the problem” trying to hold someone else accountable.

Bern got in the last words. He said the shooter was like a ticking time bomb.

“Ticking time bombs can be diffused,” Bern said.  “This ticking time bomb should have been diffused.”

The plaintiff’s attorney said Cinemark should have done what was right in this “post 9/11 world.”

He said they should have beefed up security.

“Instead,” he said, “all you heard was that this was unstoppable.”

Just before closing arguments, the former Director of Corporate Security at rival AMC theater chain took the stand.

James Barbee, a former police officer in Kansas City, said some theaters have exterior camera, some don’t.  He said most big chains have cameras inside, but “mom & pop” theaters don’t.

When asked if cameras prevent crimes, Barbee said, “No.  They record it for police.” He cited bank robberies as an example.

Barbee said he was aware of only one theater with exterior cameras – the AMC Westminster Promenade.  He said those cameras were installed by the building’s owners, to monitor a nearby parking lot which had been the target of several thefts.

When asked how many theaters had alarms on back doors prior to July 20, 2012, Barbee said he wasn’t aware of any.

Barbee said roving patrols would not be a deterrent to crime but locked doors would be.

When asked if AMC had a policy that ushers should check for locked doors, he said, “Yes.”

He also replied in the affirmative, when asked if a failure to follow that police would be considered unacceptable.

Jurors began deliberating around 4:20 p.m. on Wednesday.  They will return to the Arapahoe County Justice Center Thursday morning to resume deliberations.