Gag order to stay in cinema shooting case

2012-08-14 09:01


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Denver — The judge in the deadly Colorado theatre shooting case refused on Monday to lift a gag order that prevents the University of Colorado from releasing information about the former graduate student who is accused of being the shooter.

Arapahoe County District Judge William Sylvester also ruled that he would release some court documents in the case.

James Holmes, a former PhD student at the university, is accused of going on a shooting rampage on 20 July at the midnight showing of the new Batman movie in suburban Denver, killing 12 people and injuring 58 others.

Members of the public will have access to a list of documents filed, as well as some submitted by attorneys. Some key documents, including the arrest affidavit that outlines law enforcement's case against Holmes, will remain sealed.

Sylvester said releasing that information would harm the fairness at trial and be contrary to public interest.

In his order on the University of Colorado, he said, he "will not jeopardise the integrity of the process and the truth-seeking functions" of the courts by authorising the premature release of records.

Order may be reconsidered

Last week, Holmes' lawyers said he suffers from a mental illness but didn't disclose any details about his condition.

Defence attorney Daniel King said Holmes sought out university psychiatrist Lynne Fenton for help weeks before the shooting. A hearing is scheduled for Thursday to establish they had a doctor-patient relationship.

Sylvester said he may reconsider his order about what information the university can release after that issue is settled.

Sylvester said he considered arguments by prosecutors and defence attorneys that hundreds of witnesses and victims have not been interviewed during "the critical early stages of the investigation".

"It is certainly in the public's interest that law enforcement officials conduct a complete investigation thoroughly and efficiently," Sylvester wrote.

Steve Zansberg, the attorney representing a consortium of 21 media organisations, including The Associated Press, said in a prepared statement that Sylvester's partial release of documents brings "much needed transparency to this judicial proceeding".

Methodical planning

But he added: "We are disappointed that the affidavits of probable cause remain under seal at this time, but are hopeful that the Court will revisit that issue sometime in the not too distant future."

Documents that will be released under Sylvester's order include Holmes' defence attorney's request that their own experts be present for scientific testing of evidence. Details were not immediately available.

Police said Holmes methodically stockpiled guns, ammunition and material for explosives for months and that he had received shipments at both the university and his nearby apartment.

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