Judge In Colo. Massacre Case Keeps Gag Order

By: CBS News, Posted by Chelsey Moran
By: CBS News, Posted by Chelsey Moran

(AP/CBS) DENVER - The judge in the deadly Colorado theater shooting case refused Monday to lift a gag order that prevents the University of Colorado from releasing information about former graduate student and suspect James Holmes.

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

James Holmes, a former Ph.D. student at the university, is accused of going on a shooting rampage on July 20 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 the case remains under investigation and 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 jeopardize the integrity of the process and the truth-seeking functions" of the courts by authorizing the premature release of records.

Steve Zansberg, the attorney representing a consortium of 21 media organizations, said he was happy Sylvester unsealed 34 documents that were not previously available, but wished the judge would release more.

"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 some time in the not too distant future," he said.

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

Despite the gag order, some information about the case has leaked. Sources confirmed that Dr. Fenton became concerned enough about his behavior to alert university police, CBS News correspondent John Blackstone reported last week. It is unclear what, if anything, the police did about it.

Sylvester said when considering the gag order, he considered arguments by prosecutors and defense 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.

Documents that will be released under Sylvester's order include Holmes' defense 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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