Judge won't release package info in Colo. shooting

October 26, 2012

DENVER (AP) — The judge presiding over the Colorado theater shooting case has decided, for now, not to release information about a package sent by the suspect to his psychiatrist before the massacre, according to court documents released Friday.

Judge William Sylvester wrote that unsealing details about the package James Holmes sent to University of Colorado psychiatrist Lynne Fenton could jeopardize a pending sanctions hearing on the matter. He added that his decision aimed to "preserve judicial integrity" before the hearing.

Defense attorneys asked for the sanctions earlier this month after claiming authorities made improper statements about the contents of the package. Arapahoe County District Attorney Carol Chambers has asked the judge to reject sanctions over the package because no specific violations were identified.

Holmes, 24, is accused of opening fire on a crowded movie theater in the Denver suburb of Aurora during a special midnight showing of the latest Batman movie, "The Dark Knight Rises" on July 20. A dozen people were killed and 58 others were injured. He is charged with first-degree murder and other crimes.

In the documents released Friday, Sylvester ruled that Fenton's curriculum vitae should be released because the list of her accomplishments and qualifications is already in the public domain. And he denied prosecutors' request that victim and witness lists be redacted in court documents, saying many of the names had already been released.

He also noted that the few victims whose names had not been released had already been identified and interviewed by the media.

"Redaction of the names of victims or witnesses at this point would be largely symbolic and have very little practical effect," the judge wrote.

Steve Zansberg, the attorney representing a consortium of 21 media organizations, including The Associated Press, praised the ruling, saying "public scrutiny plays a positive role in the process."

"We're pleased that the judge granted the media petitioners' motion to unseal the portions of the court file that were excessively redacted and to allow the public to have access to information that illuminates the government's conduct in the case," he told The Associated Press. "The court recognized, as it has in previous rulings, that this is an important case and that the public has a profound interest in monitoring the proceedings."

In the meantime, Sylvester agreed to keep any affidavits of probable cause, arrest warrants and search warrants in the case suppressed.

The judge has tentatively rescheduled a preliminary hearing for Holmes for the week of Jan. 7 after attorneys said they wouldn't be ready for one this year.