DENVER (AP) – The judge in the Colorado theater shootings has rebuffed a request by the defense to further limit public access to documents in the case.
The ruling on Friday denied a defense request for the court to stop posting documents online and to deny public access to transcripts and to a weekly summary of court actions.
It marked a rare victory for public access in the case against James Holmes. A gag order prevents attorneys from discussing the issues publicly outside of court.
In his ruling, Arapahoe County District Judge Carlos A. Samour Jr. also noted that he has repeatedly limited public access to documents at the request of attorneys or on his own.
Holmes’ lawyers argued that publicity surrounding the case threatens to make it impossible to find an unbiased jury. But Samour disagreed, saying the defense had not made a persuasive argument to suppress the transcripts and docket.
He also said the public and the media have an interest in monitoring the case and that posting documents online was the most efficient way to make records available.
Holmes, 25, is accused of killing 12 people and injuring 70 in the July 2012 attack at a movie theater in the Denver suburb of Aurora. He pleaded not guilty by reason of insanity to multiple charges of murder and attempted murder. Prosecutors are seeking the death penalty.
Samour also pointed out the results of Holmes’ sanity evaluation done last summer at the state mental hospital remain secret, as does a notebook that Holmes mailed before the shootings to a psychiatrist who had been treating him.
The secrecy prompted the defense to aggressively pursue the identities of confidential sources that Fox News reporter Jana Winter cited in reporting that the notebook contained violent drawings. Defense lawyers say Winter’s sources violated the gag order, and they want her to reveal their names.
Winter, who is based in New York, argues state shield laws there and in Colorado protect her from having to identify her sources. She has said she won’t identify them in any event, even though she could be jailed for contempt of court.
Media groups including The Associated Press objected to the defense request to limit public access. So did some victims who want court documents for lawsuits.
A trial date is on hold while Samour considers a prosecution request for further psychiatric evaluation of Holmes.
– By Dan Elliott, AP Writer
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