Mountains of evidence could delay start of Colorado shooting trial

Tim Skillern
The Lookout

CENTENNIAL, Colo.—James Holmes, accused of perpetrating one of the worst mass shootings in American history, may see his trial delayed a few months due to voluminous amounts of evidence and alleged media interference, attorneys argued in court on Thursday.

Defense attorney Tamara Brady said her team still needs to review 18,000 pages of discovery evidence and anticipates poring over hundreds of thousands of additional pages before a trial can begin.

"This is an extraordinarily large case," Brady told Judge William Sylvester, indicating that the defense may not be ready for a November preliminary hearing, which may be pushed back to February.

While Brady addressed the mountains of documents, prosecution and defense attorneys lambasted the media's role in the case, telling Sylvester that the media have so seriously interfered that witnesses are hiding and that one key witness—Dr. Lynne Fenton, Holmes' university psychiatrist—fears living at home since she became involved.

Lisa Teesch-Maguire, with the district attorney's office, said witnesses are afraid to venture into their backyards because helicopters are taking photos of children and posting them on websites about Holmes.

"We are talking about a group of people who experienced a horrific tragedy," Teesch-Maguire said, noting that victims who are paralyzed and lost limbs and family had been through enough.

Defense attorney Daniel King argued strenuously that the media's coverage was impeding the case, calling it a "detrimental impact." King said he is "amazed at the callousness" of media attorney Steven Zansberg and said he was using victims as "cannon fodder." King said the attorneys spend too much time considering the media's motions that they can't concentrate on the task at hand: reviewing piles of documents.

"It's silly, judge," King said, "and we need to move forward. ... We don't have time. We can't begin to examine the nature and depths of Mr. Holmes' mental illness."

Discussion of the media's role dominated the one-hour hearing. Zansberg asked the court to make public some redacted information in court filings, including victims' names, that have already been published in media reports. He cited precedent and case law that said a First Amendment right to the information supersedes other concerns.

Prosecution and defense attorneys, however, argued the court needs to continue to safeguard all information.

"I am not going to drag these victims' names and witnesses' names out in public and victimize them again," King said.

Thursday's hearing also briefly focused on the notebook that Holmes sent to Fenton just before the attack.

The defense team argued in court—piggybacking on a motion it filed on Tuesday—that leaks to the media have jeopardized Holmes' right to a fair trial when the prosecution gave information about the notebook to a reporter.

Prosecutors countered that claim, arguing that the defense's motion was too vague, specifically that the defense hadn't identified the source of the leak or stipulated whether it believes the leaks are true. Still, Sylvester said he will hear that motion on Oct. 25.

Other developments in the case:

• In another motion filed on Tuesday, the defense team dropped its request for sanctions against the DA's office over the release of a new mug shot of Holmes that shows the defendant with a closely cropped head of brown hair, sans the cartoonish red-orange hair he'd sported in previous court appearances.

• Holmes now faces 14 new counts of attempted first-degree murder. The former University of Colorado doctoral candidate in neuroscience is charged with 166 counts, including 24 counts of first-degree murder and 126 charges of attempted murder, stemming from the July 20 attacks that killed 12 at a movie theater in Aurora.