James Holmes' Attorneys Want Public Access To Theater Shooting Case Restricted

FILE -This June 4, 2013 file photo shows Aurora theater shooting suspect James Holmes in court in Centennial, Colo. Prosecuto
FILE -This June 4, 2013 file photo shows Aurora theater shooting suspect James Holmes in court in Centennial, Colo. Prosecutors in the Colorado theater shootings on Monday, Aug. 19, 2013, asked the judge not to allow testimony about state execution procedures if James Holmes is convicted of first-degree murder. The district attorney's office filed a series of pre-emptive motions released Monday that seek to limit what witnesses can say during the sentencing phase if Holmes is convicted and jurors are left to decide if he should be executed. Holmes is accused of opening fire in a theater full of people watching a Batman movie in suburban Denver in July 2012, killing 12 and wounding 70. He pleaded not guilty by reason of insanity to multiple charges of murder and attempted murder.(AP Photo/The Denver Post, Andy Cross, Pool, File)

Attorneys for suspected Aurora theater shooter James Holmes have filed a motion to keep more information about the case secret from the public.

Holmes' attorneys are arguing that the court website, which posts copies of case documents, is violating the shooting suspect's right to a fair trial. "The 'Cases of Interest' website has undoubtedly had a deleterious effect on Mr. Holmes' constitutional rights to due process and a fair trial by an impartial jury," the motion states, according to The Denver Post.

The attorneys don't want the case sealed entirely, but they do want digital copies of case files kept from the Internet and restricted to paper copies available only in court. Holmes' attorneys seem particularly concerned about the media's access to the case files, writing:

"While the media will no doubt continue to attend the proceedings, allowing the press to have access to the physical transcripts of these proceedings in the digital age will exponentially increase the public's ability to access detailed information about what took place, as the press can and undoubtedly will publish links to these transcripts online," the defense wrote, 7News reported.

Judge William Sylvester, the original judge on the case, imposed a gag order three days after the shooting took place in 2012 which prevents all parties in the case from releasing information and certain specific motions to be kept confidential.

Holmes' attorneys also filed a motion this week requesting the permission to file future motions related to the sanity evaluation report that has been completed on the theater shooting suspect.

The defense writes that the motions relating to the sanity report would relate to "significant and important legal issues arising from this report that relate not only to the merits phase of this case but the sentencing proceeding as well," 9News reported.

The contents of the Holmes sanity report has already been ordered to be kept from the public.

The court received an encrypted, electronic copy of the 128-page report from the Colorado Mental Health Institute at Pueblo earlier in September. The mental health assessment was completed by an unknown number of doctors at CMHIP and the exact extent of the battery of tests that Holmes had to submit to in the evaluation is also unknown. However, back in June, CMHIP Superintendent William May said that the sanity evaluation of Holmes will probably be conducted by one psychiatrist and two psychologists.

Court records indicate that the completed mental health assessment is only to be reviewed by the prosecutors and defense attorneys involved in the case.

More from The Associated Press on the significance of the report:

The report will say whether the psychiatrist who led the evaluation - who works for the state mental hospital - believes Holmes meets Colorado's legal definition of insanity: the inability to tell the difference between right and wrong because of a mental disease or defect.

Very few people qualify, even if they have been diagnosed with mental illness, said Steven Pitt, a forensic psychiatrist in Scottsdale, Ariz.

"The diagnosis itself doesn't give someone a get-out-of-jail card," said Pitt, who isn't working on the Aurora case.

If the state psychiatrist's report concludes Holmes was insane, prosecutors are more likely to accept a bargain that would put Holmes in prison for life with no possibility of parole in exchange for a guilty plea, said Dan Recht, an attorney and past president of the Colorado Criminal Defense Bar.

Although the details of the evaluation are not clear, Superintendent May said that institute staff had been poring through an "extraordinary amount of documentation," causing them to miss the original July 31 deadline the judge set for finishing Holmes' mental health evaluation, Reuters reported.

Attorneys have said that the evidence in the case takes up nearly 40,000 pages.

Holmes entered a plea of not guilty by reason of insanity on June 4, 2013, which triggered the court to order CMHIP to conduct a sanity examination and prepare a report. The theater shooting suspect arrived at CMHIP in August and it remains unclear how long he will remain there.

A gag order in the case made it impossible for staff to comment on Holmes, however the Pueblo Chieftain discovered that the institute has emptied an entire ward in the forensic unit to house Holmes by himself under extremely tight security.

In July, attorneys for Holmes admitted that he killed 12 people and wounded 70 others in the Aurora movie theater on July 20, 2012, but that he was "in the throes of a psychotic episode" at the time.

The results of Holmes' mental health evaluation are critical for his defense of not guilty by reason of insanity.



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