On Monday, a Colorado judge ordered that a major portion of the key documents detailing the case against Batman movie gunman James Holmes should remain sealed, rejecting a request by news organizations to lift the gag order. However, the Arapahoe County District Judge William Sylvester allowed for the release of 34 documents that were primarily related to media motions and procedural matters.
Contrary to media expectations, the judge ordered most documents of value to the news media to be kept under seal including affidavits of probable cause, subpoenas, search warrants, arrest warrants, and requests for production of records and related court orders.
Holmes has been charged with 24 counts of first-degree murder and 116 counts of attempted murder by prosecutors. In the midnight shootings within the crowded Aurora Hall in Colorado, Holmes killed 12 people and wounded 58 others. On being arrested, the 24-year-old former graduate student told the police that he was the “Joker” of Batman comics.
Lawyers on behalf of the media argued against the gag order in the case claiming that such secrecy in the case “undermines our nation’s firm commitment to the transparency and public accountability of the criminal justice system.” The petition by the media included 20 news organizations including the Associated Press, the New York Times, the Denver Post, and CBS News.
However, both prosecutors and defense lawyers objected to the petition made by the media saying that investigation was still on and it was too early to open the file. It is pertinent to note that in ordinary cases documents are open to the public.
Daniele King, the public defender, said that the former neuroscience graduate student at the University of Colorado suffered from a “mental illness” and record shows he sought help before the mass shooting. The remark by the public defender has been viewed by legal experts as an indication of an insanity defense on behalf of Holmes.
Currently Holmes is being held without bond and in solitary confinement at the County jail in Arapahoe.