DENVER — Attorneys for 20 news organisations were in a Colorado courtroom today arguing that documents detailing the murder case against accused movie theatre gunman James Holmes should be unsealed by a judge and open to the public.
A Colorado judge ordered most court documents sealed at the request of prosecutors shortly after the arrest of Holmes, who is accused of opening fire at a midnight screening of the new Batman movie in the Denver suburb of Aurora in July.
Twelve people died and 58 others were wounded in the shooting rampage. Last week, prosecutors charged Holmes, a 24-year-old former neuroscience graduate student at the University of Colorado, with 24 counts of first-degree murder and 116 counts of attempted murder.
Media lawyer Steven Zansberg said in a written motion that the decision to close the bulk of the file “undermines our nation’s firm commitment to the transparency and public accountability of the criminal justice system”.
In the motion, lawyers for the media outlets, including The New York Times Co., The Associated Press, The Denver Post, and CBS News, argued that the US Constitution and state case law requires a presumption of openness.
“Absent disclosure of the factual basis for the issuance of a warrant, the public cannot properly assess the propriety of the government’s conduct,” the motion said.
In anticipation that prosecutors might argue that opening the file might compromise the criminal probe, the motion states that authorities have already said publicly that Holmes acted alone, so there is no ongoing investigation of other suspects. (Reuters)