Colorado judge denies special probe in James Holmes' notebook leak

By Keith Coffman
James Holmes sits in court for an advisement hearing at the Arapahoe County Justice Center in Centennial
James Holmes sits in court for an advisement hearing at the Arapahoe County Justice Center in Centennial, Colorado June 4, 2013. REUTERS/Andy Cross/Pool

By Keith Coffman

DENVER (Reuters) - A Colorado judge overseeing the murder case against accused theater gunman James Holmes said on Thursday that police may have lied when they denied leaking details of the case to Fox News, but declined to appoint a special prosecutor.

Arapahoe County District Court Judge Carlos Samour denied a motion by public defenders seeking independent investigation into the source of the story, saying public defenders can “cast doubt on the credibility" of the officers during trial.

Holmes has pleaded not guilty by reason of insanity to opening fire inside a theater in the Denver suburb of Aurora during a midnight screening of the Batman film “The Dark Knight Rises” in July 2012.

The shooting rampage killed 12 moviegoers and wounded 70 others.

Days after the massacre, an online article published by Fox News' New York-based reporter Jana Winter cited two law enforcement officials who said Holmes sent his psychiatrist a notebook outlining his plans to commit mass murder.

Public defenders argued the leak was in violation of a gag order imposed by the judge presiding over the case at the time, and wanted Winter to reveal her sources.

The New York Court of Appeals ultimately sided with Winter, and the U.S. Supreme Court declined to review the case.

Samour said he cannot sanction prosecutors when the source of the leak is unknown, adding that "if the record before the Court is complete, it reflects that at least one law enforcement agent was untruthful at one of the hearings."

Samour will hold a hearing next month on whether to allow TV and still cameras in the courtroom at Holmes' trial, which is set to begin with jury selection in December.

Holmes' lawyers have conceded that he was the lone gunman, but have said the onetime neuroscience graduate student was "in the throes of a psychotic episode" at the time.

Prosecutors said they will seek the death penalty for the 26-year-old California native if he is convicted.

(Reporting by Keith Coffman in Denver; Editing by Victoria Cavaliere and Michael Perry)