DENVER Aug 9 Attorneys for 20 news
organizations will be in a Colorado courtroom on Thursday to
argue that documents detailing the murder case against accused
movie theater gunman James Holmes should be unsealed by a judge
and open to the public.
A Colorado judge ordered most court documents sealed at the
request of prosecutors shortly after the arrest of Holmes, who
is accused of opening fire at a midnight screening of the new
"Batman" movie in the Denver suburb of Aurora in July.
Twelve people died and 58 others were wounded in the
shooting rampage. Last week, prosecutors charged Holmes, a
24-year-old former neuroscience graduate student at the
University of Colorado, with 24 counts of first-degree murder
and 116 counts of attempted murder.
Media lawyer Steven Zansberg said in a written motion that
the decision to close the bulk of the file "undermines our
nation's firm commitment to the transparency and public
accountability of the criminal justice system."
In the motion, lawyers for the media outlets, including The
New York Times Co., The Associated Press, The Denver Post, and
CBS News, argued that the U.S. Constitution and state case law
requires a presumption of openness. Thomson Reuters is not a
party to the motion.
"Absent disclosure of the factual basis for the issuance of
a warrant, the public cannot properly assess the propriety of
the government's conduct," the motion said.
In anticipation that prosecutors might argue that opening
the file might compromise the criminal probe, the motion states
that authorities have already said publicly that Holmes acted
alone, so there is no ongoing investigation of other suspects.
Citing a separate "gag" order prohibiting involved parties
from making public statements about the case, a spokeswoman for
District Attorney Carol Chambers declined to comment.
The same unknowns hold true for any answer by Holmes'
lawyers, but in a previous court hearing public defender Tamara
Brady said it was her position that the file should remain
The media motion said that in other high-profile Colorado
cases opening the court file did not hurt a defendant's due
process rights, citing the dismissal of sexual assault charges
lodged against Los Angeles Lakers superstar Kobe Bryant.
More recently, the motion said, investigative files in the
rape case against a former Denver Bronco football player were
opened, and the defendant was acquitted of the charges after a
The Colorado state public defender's office said they had no
comment about the case.
There are other options available to the court to ensure
Holmes receives a fair trial, the motion said.
Those include expanding the number of people in the jury
pool, allowing extensive questioning of potential jurors by the
lawyers, and seeking a change of venue if pretrial publicity is
Holmes is being held without bond and in solitary
confinement at the Arapahoe County jail, and it was unclear
whether he will be in court for Thursday's hearing.
(Editing by Dan Whitcomb and Lisa Shumaker)